FIJI CHURCH ACCUSED OF MONEY-GRUBBING

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By Frederica Elbourne

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Aug. 28) - The Methodist Church loves money more than God and forces its members to commit financial suicide in its annual fundraising drive, a former church president said yesterday.

And the church should be taxed on the $2 million it collected from churchgoers, Reverend Josateki Koroi said, adding that it is a charitable organization that had failed to return the funds it raised to the poor.

His attack comes in the wake of a $2 million donation by thousands of members who, he said, were forced to commit "financial suicide" by forking out for the church when children’s educational needs and well- being was neglected.

Church general-secretary Reverend Jione Lagi said Mr Koroi’s comments were not worth responding to.

The church, said Mr Koroi, was dishonest and would stoop as low as to steal from the blind.

"The choir competition is expected to haul in more funds estimated to the tune of $4 million perceived as the financial injection to boost the controversial health, life and medical insurance of church ministers," he said yesterday.

"No one has ever heard of the church funding overseas health trips for its members."

Mr Koroi said the issue of free giving was initiated in the 1970s when the construction of the Centenary Church was agreed to and where church members were asked to donate 10 cents.

This concept was taken out of context and abused thereafter, he said.

He said the church was required to give something back to the poor in times of disaster or ill health from funds it raised during its annual fundraising.

The annual levy has increased from 10 cents to $10 per head, Mr Koroi said.

The lack of a qualified auditor for the church, given the enormous sums it received, was disastrous, he said.

"It’s a sad situation and is open to corruption. It definitely needs an investigation and that’s what I’m calling for. The financial affairs of the church are deplorable and corrupt," he said.

"The trust given to the elders and leadership of the church has been abused beyond recognition. People are denied better standards of living and their bread and butter.

"This social economic problem won’t go away for as long as we have selfish greedy leaders in the church."

The public had a right to know how the funds were used and a confidential-stamped audited account reeked of fraud, he said.

"It’s not a glass house where people can look in or an open administration. Transparency could be exercised," he said.

August 30, 2004

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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