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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 18) – The Methodist Church should take some of the blame for past racial division in the country, Citizens Constitutional Forum executive director Reverend Akuila Yabaki says.

He said Methodist Christianity stopped teaching the meaning of true faith when it allowed some ministers to become a force that merely cheered on whatever political party supported ethno-nationalism.

Mr Yabaki said the relationship between Methodist Christianity and Fijian culture had become so close, it was hard to differentiate between them.

Methodist Church president Reverend Jione Langi said Mr Yabaki had no grounds to complain about the Methodist Church because he had no evidence. He said Mr Yabaki should not make generalised accusations but should present his facts and reveal the names of the people he was accusing with a date, time and place.

Mr Langi also retorted that Mr Yabaki should not be using the "Reverend" title because the Methodist Church defrocked him and he was no longer a minister.

Mr Yabaki made the claims at a seminar on Religion and Governance organised by Pacific Centre for Public Integrity and ECREA.

Mr Langi said the Methodist Church did not send a representative to the seminar because he did not receive any notice or invitation to it.

Mr Yabaki said Methodist pulpits continued to preach Fijians were God-chosen people and Fiji was their promised land.

He said this self-asserting theology resulted in the fuelling of Fijian national aspirations.

Mr Yabaki said as a result, "Indians are kept permanently in the status of foreigners".

He said when religion became conformed to culture, it could no longer provide a reliable path to spirituality.

As a result, he said, public life lost its moral direction.

He said Christianity in Fiji had been influenced by Pentecostal groups from the United States, which gave rise to fundamentalist teachings.

"The coup of 2000 had a strong religious tone, with Christian worship taking place frequently among the people occupying the parliamentary complex," Yabaki said. "When hostages were held in parliament, these Pentecostal preachings were heard thundering from around the Parliament — some sermons went on to the middle of the night," he said.

Mr Yabaki said the lack of social conscience among right wing religion manifested during the hostage crisis continued now with the recent attack on homosexuality.

May 18, 2005

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