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Military leader lifts ban on church meetings

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Dec. 14, 2010) – The Methodist Church in Fiji says it's ready to work with Government after a decision to allow the largest Christian denomination in Fiji to hold its annual conference next year.

In welcoming the decision, the church's acting general secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra said the decision was inspired by God and that it was a breakthrough.

"Negotiations and understanding between the two parties need to take place inorder for better outcomes in the future," he said. "We are hoping that this breakthrough will shape things for a better future. We believe that this is a stepping stone of getting things right with the Government. This is a new beginning but we are not sure what is next for us because there would need to be a lot of negotiation and understanding between the two parties."

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama extended an olive branch to the Methodist Church, by allowing it to hold its annual conference next year.

[PIR editor’s note: The Methodist Church is the largest Christian denomination in Fiji and has been influential in the country’s politics in the past. Military leader Frank Bainimarama neutralized the church’s extracurricular involvements shortly after his takeover of the Fiji government by coup in 2006, forbidding annual meetings of the church.]

The green light is also extended to cover the quarterly and the annual divisional meetings.

However, there are conditions for the holding of these three meetings. They are to be held in one day only.

The go-ahead was contained in a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Methodist Church, which was received last week.

Reverend Nawadra said the quarterly meeting would be held next March.

"The decision on the time to hold the annual divisional meeting is still pending," he said.

"This is a breakthrough. We are hoping that this breakthrough will shape things for a better future. We need to adhere to the one condition, that each meeting is given a day to be conducted. We have called the Prime Minister and showed our appreciation but at the moment I am working on our response letter."

He said they would ensure the meetings were conducted in such a way that it adhered to the conditions set.

"This is another milestone achievement for the Methodist Church in Fiji," Reverend Nawadra said. "We thank the Government for the step that they have taken in helping us."

He said the church was grateful for the decision.

"We hope to build our relationship with Government and help the nation of Fiji," Reverend Nawadra said.

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