SUVA, Fiji (Dec. 24) – Christmas is the last of the three great religious festivals that we celebrate in Fiji. Diwali and Eid have already passed and today is the eve of possibly the most important of the Christian festivals. Tomorrow is when Christians worldwide will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s only son who He sent to mankind to redeem our sins.

Like the other religious festivals, Christmas is a time of love, caring and giving. It is a time when quarrels, prejudices and disputes are, if not forgotten, at least set aside. It is a time of gifts offered and received, a time of reconciliation. And perhaps uniquely here in Fiji we have learned to share in each other’s religious ceremonies and festivals.

Christians and Muslims are welcomed at Diwali gatherings. Hindus and Christians can be seen exchanging gifts of food with their Muslim brothers and sisters at Eid while Muslims and Hindus are no strangers to Christmas celebrations throughout these islands. This is symbolic of the tolerance and mutual respect that exists in Fiji. Here is reconciliation at work in our everyday lives.

Why is it, then, that racism in all its ugliness is so prominent in our highest national institution – the Houses of Parliament? The answer at least in part is that our leaders see the politics of race as being easier than the politics of policy. They know that by playing the race card they will achieve recognition, notoriety and, most of all, publicity.

So do our leaders, then, know us better than we know ourselves? Obviously they have a different image of us than we have of ourselves if they are convinced that we will support their racial outbursts.

Let’s take a good look at ourselves this Christmas. Are we all racists under the skin, ready to hate at the first political hint? Or do we practice the creeds of the three great religions, all of which abhor racial prejudice?

If the latter statement is the truth, we can stop the racism at the top by refusing to respond to it. True reconciliation is in the hands of the people who choose to practice it. So let’s enjoy Christmas. Together and in peace.

December 24, 2004


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