Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why Can’t We All Just Sing a Song and Get Along?

(Featured in The Fiji Times, Wednesday 30/07/2008, p7)

I had the opportunity last week to watch a moving and thought-provoking performance. No, not the “Sorry I confused you by switching cars on the way to the office;” or “Sorry to disappoint you but I’m not resigning,” performance. The performance I refer to had amateur performers. And they didn’t change their tune even once until the song was over.

I am of course referring to the Suva Secondary Schools Music Festival, held at what I’ve always known to be the National Gymnasium (not that I’ve ever seen a gymnastic performance there) which is today almost the ignored older brother (or sister) of the larger Dome/Arena of Sports City in Suva. As an International School Student, I remember performing many a strange display of contemporary dance at this venue; or sitting high up in the back (in theatre-speak those seats are often referred to as the “God’s”) trying luck on whichever poor girl was the object of my obsession at the time. More recently I remember being a ring-announcer to one of those boxing nights when “Joy-the-leaving-on-a-Jetplane” never showed up. “Let’s get ready to rum-ble!” Or maybe not, as the case was.

I was fortunate to get tickets for the family to watch the Wednesday night performance of some 400 young people from schools of the greater-Suva area as well as the Pasifika Voices, wonderful Taiko drummers and of course the arrangement and conducting of among others, the very talented and humble (as only the son of a Samoan Talatala can be)Iglese Ete. For those who never got to watch Malaga: The Journey, or attend the USP’s graduation day, it was wonderful to see an actual musical maestro (as opposed to the 7’s rugby one we know and love) in action. Choreographed movements and song seamlessly flowed to “inspire” at least one member of the audience, who emailed me later.

Some wanted more…well most wanted more music, but one or two wanted more out of the show; but my own experience was sublime, disrupted only by my dear children, who wanted first to go up to the stage and sing, then go up and dance, then go up and play the drums, then go up and conduct. Their mother who is visiting George Bush’s relatives (oh sorry.. it’s only in the Pacific that everyone is related) in the United States (actually on a wonderful history workshop facilitated by the US Embassy here), missed out on the show and the joy of having two children wanting you to carry them and sit on your shoulders, or go to the toilet (not to be confused with the other BOG next door), when your favourite song is about to be sung. Ah the joys of parenthood!

The coming together of rival schools to sing duets of appropriately titled songs got me thinking that instead of all this money being spent on councils to weave better mats could be equally (or better – your choice, this article is democratic) spent on putting together a Choir for Singing about a Better Fiji. Of course those singing about a new day (no offence but I prefer the Stevie J. Heatley version) could be in the back up choir as could all the former, or in-limbo members of parliament and former or current members of the military-inspired Cabinet. There’d even be enough room for the military council and the rest of the other councils. However the stars of the night would be the duet singers. Here a couple of suggestions for songs.
1. Let it Flow (originally sung by Toni Braxton) Mahendra Chaudhry and the Water Bottlers
2. Message in a Bottle (originally sung by The Police) Mahendra Chaudhry and the Cabinet
3. Get Back to Where You Don’t Belong (originally sung by The Beatles) Evan Hannah, Russell Hunter and Viliame Naupoto (okay that’s a trio)
4. Ain’t No Sunshine (when He’s gone) (originally sung by Bill Withers/covered by Skee) Frank Bainimarama and Pramesh Chand
5. What’s Going On (originally sung by Marvin Gaye) Neumi Leweni and Daryl Tarte
6. How Can We Be Lovers If We Can’t Be Friends? (originally sung by Michael Bolton) Frank Bainimarama and Laisenia Qarase
7. Another Brick in the Wall (originally sung by Pink Floyd) John Samy and the TASS singers
8. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (sung by UB40) Tukana Bovoro and Taito Waradi

Next week: “Heroes and Villains.”
Have a week blessed with Love, Light and Peace!

Disclaimer: Rev. Bhagwan is a member of the Faculty of the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College. The opinions expressed in this article are personal and in no way represent the opinion of the College or the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Knowledge is the rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate" – Francis Bacon

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Metatron's Cube

Metatron is the angel of the presence of the Lord... and also happens to be Santana's muse....

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chill Babe, its only Democrazy

The FAME (Fiji Awards for Media Excellence) people still have yet to come up with a category for profound malapropisms... which could be sponsored by the Military Regime's Department of Silly Talks. Case in point, the statement by Military Council's Attorney-General, El Haj Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum that we should not obsess over March 2009 election timetable (Fiji Sun 15/7/08). This to a people who are constantly accused, by those from more time-efficient cultures, of following "Fiji-time", moku-siga and my favourite Fiji Islands mantra, "why do yesterday what you could do next week."

I know the Sayed-Khaiyum family, consider Aiyaz and Riyaz close friends and have even celebrated Eid with their family. So this isn't a personal attack. However, I would like to take on this call to be less obsessed with time and take it as far as it goes. Could he then ask FICRA, FEA, Telecom and all those places that we have accounts and dinau to also not obsess about timelines for payments?

And if...oops... I mean...when this Elections, which is taking in eschatological proportions (i.e. almost as big as the Second Coming of my and maybe your Lord) does happen, again if Il Duce/Herr Diktator /Comrade Frank and the Council do feel Fiji (the country), at 36 years old and counting, is eligible to vote; will they kindly not obsess over how long it will take bubu to come from the koro to vote and keep the poll booths open late to allow for last minute vote-shopping, vote-buying and vote casting?

And if we're a bit slow from all the kava we've been drinking while we've been waiting for our chance to vote, will they give us time (and allow us to keep our sunglasses on) to try and make sense of the ballot paper or meditate and reflect on who we should vote for ... or just take a short nap?

Mind you while we're not obsessing over time here, may be they'll tell us not to obsess over the timeline between casting votes and the announcement of who won the lottery and gets to be the next government to be removed at gunpoint.

Well at least there's an upside... we pulpit pounders may not have to worry about people looking at their watches if our sermons are too long... as long as we're preaching about the elections.

Methodist Heretic Lets Loose On Blogsphere

Former Fiji MTV-rocker turned Benny Hinn-impersonator, Rev. James Bhagwan, has launched his first blog since being kindly asked to refrain from writing anti asian and anti media statements on the Asia Communications Network Blog which he who occasionally wrote for. Rev. Bhagwan who was threatened with being put into the same category as Rev. Akuila "red red wine" Yabaki, by the Methodist Church after publicly claiming that Jesus was not a Methodist, launched his own blog last weekend to coincide with the Catholic Mass Mosh in Sydney and the ROC Market in Suva. It has already been criticised by critics for being too serious, with not enough humour. Bhagwan has retorted by claiming that the critics are also not Methodists and reminding people that if they want the funny stuff on a regular basis, then they can jolly well buy “Living in Fiji” (because no-one else will publish him).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oceania at Risk from Biotechnology Exploitation and Genetically-Modified Food

The biodiversity of Oceania is at high risk of exploitation by Biotechnology companies and Pacific Islanders maybe on the horizon of a major food security risk from genetically modified food

In December 2007, I represented the Pacific Conference of Churches at a Global Consultation on Genetics and New Biotechnologies and the Ministry of the Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I shared my concern that while economic development is important for the nations of Pacific; governments and churches need to examine the possible negative social, economic and health implications of the introduction of farming of genetically-modified crops for export or local consumption.

Looking at the devastation of communities, local economies and cultures by the actions of Biotechnology companies involved in Genetically-Modified crop farming such as Monsanto, in Mexico, Paraguay and Latin America, but also the impact of large-scale GM farming on small farmers in North America, the Pacific needs to heed the "writing on the wall" and be proactive in this area.

The danger of overlooking the health and social implications and focusing on the immediate economic benefits for a few, when looking to introduce the planting of GM crops, is real.

Already we have heard of the States of Victoria and New South Wales in Australia, not renewing the ban on growing genetically-modified crops. This has direct implications on Pacific Islanders as many of our countries import food products from Australia.

Genetically Modified Foods, Plants, Animals, Additives, Body Products, Fish, Crops and Trees have had their genes manipulated, changed, and put into other species that normally they would not mate with, blend with, consume, or grow in. Incredible combinations have been produced, and have been found to have mutations, diseases, abnormalities and trigger other diseases that otherwise may have remained dormant.

14 South Pacific countries - American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu - have recommended a moratorium on the import of GMOs pending the implementation of appropriate national risk assessment and risk management procedures. However, no firm actions have been taken although, Bhagwan noted, some local consumer councils have called for the labeling of products containing Genetically-Modified material.

As the sugar industry in Fiji continues to struggle, the possibility that the industry may turn to GM sugarcane for increased sugar quantity must be accepted and addressed. With the continuing exploitation of the biodiversity of Oceania and the repeated attempts by biotechnology companies to use Pacific Islanders as research subjects, as in the Cook Islands, and acquire rights to their DNA, as in Tonga, there is a need for Churches to provide ethical and theological advice to Governments in the region.

Churches need to be included in advisory committees within Environment and Agricultural departments and ministries dealing with biodiversity and the implementation of new technology. It is also important that consumer councils, NGOs and CSOs as well as mainstream media recognise the need for the public to be conscious not just about where their food comes from and how it was produced, but who has suffered in the process.

O’Messiah, Lead Us Into Hope

“Al Maddath Maula” O’Messiah, Lead Us Into Hope

O most merciful, benevolent God, hear my plea

In fervent worship, I seek you, like a moth seeks the flame

O most merciful, benevolent God, hear my plea

Lead me to your light, show me the way

O most merciful, benevolent God, hear my plea

O Messiah, lead us into hope

My heart is uneasy, sleep and dreams elude me

I turn and toss as a storm grows in my breast

O most merciful, benevolent God, hear my plea

O Messiah, lead us into hope

What is to happen next? Where does this story grow?

The world waits with bated breath for the saga to unfold

O Lord! O Messiah!

Why these hurdles? Why this trial by fire?

O most merciful, benevolent God, hear my plea

O Messiah, lead us into hope

(Note: both this and 'Mangal mangal' are from the soundtrack of the movie, "The Ballad of Mangal Panday" released in 2006).

A Blessing

“Mangal Mangal” (Be Blessed)

Harken o’ people, The drum sounds the call

Now awake and arise from your deep slumber

Awaken, now awaken

The Earth comes alive as dawn heralds a new day

Rivers sparkle with new life and hope rises in oceans anew

Awaken, now awaken!

Be blessed, be blessed, be blessed;

May all be blessed.

The towns are awake, the homes are abuzz, every village is astir.

Valleys awaken and so do their trees, look shadows are coming to life!

Be blessed, be blessed, be blessed;

May all be blessed.

When dawn comes to bathe at the banks of the Ganges,

Dark night retreats before the Sun’s flashing sword

Sacred fires are lit for prayers. Go now and greet your God

He who asks, shall receive, and sins of ages will be washed away

The market shakes off its slumber and stretches to life

Landlord, trader, priest or soldier, as per your worth, your value is weighed.

Singing songs of love and blessing, the mystic wanders strumming his tunes: “May the doors of each person’s destiny open and may all be well in this world of ours.”

Be blessed, be blessed, be blessed;

May all be blessed.

Obedient Until Death

Bible Reading: Mark 14: 17-37

Today, our reading takes us to an upper room in Jerusalem, a celebration of Passover with a difference, and a time of personal spiritual tribulation. It ends almost where Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ begins.

Our theme is Obedient unto Death.

So much occurs in today’s passage: The prediction of Judas’ betrayal, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the prediction of Peter’s denial and Jesus praying in Gethsemane. Each of these is a topic for a sermon of its own. Yet if we look at it from the perspective of the theme, “obedient unto death,” it is not too much of a stretch to connect these dots: predictions of betrayal and denial, the instating of the ritual of the Eucharist and Jesus’ moment of weakness, into a picture which shows us different angles of the same theme.

The question can be asked: is Judas merely obeying Jesus’ statement that one of the 12 will betray him. Certainly if the other 11 are saying ‘not me, no way, I’ll never do that,’ he’s left with the responsibility. I’m sure many of you a by now aware of the recent publication of the English translation of a Coptic manuscript from the 4th century which seems to be a Gnostic gospel of Judas. According to the introduction, this is a secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover. In it Judas is praised by Jesus for and I quote, “…sacrificing the man that clothes me…” Perhaps if we had read this earlier – we might have done a few things differently on Sunday night. Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that this 4th Century manuscript has it right. But we can see a purpose to the act of Judas, and his obedience to God’s purpose, unto death, both his and Jesus’.

Peter too is obedient to the prediction of denial, although he, James and John could maintain their obedience to Jesus’ command to stay awake and keep watch.

Jesus prays in Gethsemane for the cup of suffering from which He must drink to be taken from Him. Yet he remains obedient to not His will but His Father’s will unto death.

When we participate in Holy Communion, we too are being obedient to the Christ’s command of remembrance. Our obedience here results in the death of our old life of sin and a in a new life in a new creation.

I recently watched a film which was but one story in the epic saga of the battle for independence of India, from the British and who were for a time ruled by a one of the first transnational companies – the British East India Company. It is the story of Mangal Pandey who sparked what Western historians refer to as the Indian or Sepoy mutiny and Indians refer to it as their first war of independence. The rebellion was put down after a year but brought an end to the East India Company as the British Crown took over the governance of India. This next form of oppression would be challenged and defeated in another story through the non-violent satya-graha or truth-force of Mahatma Gandhi, loosely based on the Beatitudes. For these two men also, albeit non-Christian, their obedience to the cry for deliverance of their people, would result in their death.

As I was pondering over this theme last week, I happened to open one of the many prayer books from the Holy Trinity Cathedral which, according to my sources can be found in Labasa in Vanua Levu and even in New Zealand. Last week there were two modern servants of God whose deaths were commemorated. One was Rev. Dr. Dietrich Bonhoffer, a theologian, who left the security of the United States to return to Nazi Germany to work in the Confessional Church and during the second world war worked in opposition to the Nazis and was arrested and ultimately executed in 1945 for plotting against Adolf Hitler in 1945, just weeks before Germany surrendered.

From his letters and papers smuggled out of prison, I would like to share with you some extracts, from an essay titled ‘After 10 years,’ written a few months before his arrest in 1943:

Who stands his ground? Only the man whose ultimate criterion is no his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these things when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and exclusive allegiance to God. The responsible man seeks to make his whole life a response to the question and call to God….

It is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human command than to accept suffering as free responsible men. It is infinitely easier to suffer with others than to suffer alone. It is infinitely easier to suffer as public heroes than to suffer apart and in ignominy. It is infinitely easier to suffer physical death than to endure spiritual suffering. Christ suffered as a free man alone, apart and in ignominy., in body and in spirit, and since that day, many Christians have suffered with him.

The other name that I read was that of another theologian (by this stage I was beginning to wonder if I made the right decision to major in theology) this time from what was and is still purported to be, no offence David, the bastion of democracy, USA. Civil rights activist, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who took Gandhi’s of non-violence and love replying to hate, was a leading figure in the campaign to affirm the dignity of African-Americans. Awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1967, he was assassinated a year later, at the age of 39.

Martin Luther King Jnr is known for the Montgomery Alabama, Bus boycott; the massive public march on Washington DC the capital of USA and of course his immortal “I have a dream speech.”

I would like to share from another speech, not as well known as “I have a dream”, this speech was delivered in support of the striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, a day before he was assassinated:

The question is not, “if I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” “If I do not stop to help, what will happen to him,” That’s the question…

Well I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like everybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned with that now. I just want to do God’s will And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

In 1980, in the midst of a US funded war which the UN Truth Commission called genocidal, the soon-to-be-assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador promised history that life, not death, would have the last word. “I do not believe in death without resurrection,” he is quoted as saying. “If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadorian people.” On March 23, 1980 he preached his last radio broadcast sermon directed at the national guard, the police and the military which ended with:

In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression.

The church preaches your liberation just as we have studied it in the Holy Bible today. It is a liberation that has, above all else, respect for the dignity of the person, hope for humanity’s common good, and the transcendence that looks before all to God and only from God derives its hope and its strength.

The next day, as he celebrated Mass, he was murdered by a sharpshooter. A number of those who attended his funeral were also shot in front of the cathedral.

Here in the Pacific, we remember the Seven Melanesian brothers killed during the ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands by Harold Keke and his militia. Brother Nathaniel Sado, Brothers Robin Lindsay, Francis Tofi , Alfred Hilly, Patterson Gatu, Ini Partabatu and Tony Sirihi made the ultimate sacrifice of a peacemaker.

But is not just priests, ministers and lay church workers and missionaries who are called to be obedient unto death. Time does not permit me to reflect on the 200 million Christians under some form of persecution around the world. All of these people from different places, races, cultures, denominations face arrest, eviction, attacks, intimidation, interrogation, imprisonment, beatings, being burned, beheading, starvation, stoning, rape, and death for their faith in and obedience to Christ.

Brothers and sisters, the message to us is deafeningly loud, we are called, we are challenged and we are shown how. Do we dare to be obedient unto death? Amen.

A Reflection on Biblically-based Women's Rights

(Extract from a sermon)

The passage I have chosen for us from the Holy Scriptures is Numbers 27: 1-8

For our very brief reflection today I would like to draw your attention to how this passage shows how the daughters of Zelophehad petition to secure a right of their father’s property. Moses the lawgiver defers the decision-making process to God the law-maker, whose response results in the promulgating of a new law which adds women into the list of those entitled to inheritance.

This new law is in contrast to the male orientated inheritance laws of Deuteronomy. I’m sure this decision must have shocked the patriarchal society gathered at the Tent of Meeting. Perhaps this is why Moses deferred the decision to God to make – for a smoother acceptance, kinda like some politicians getting support for a controversial government bill from the provincial councils before passing it in parliament.

But I digress. The real issue here is the rights of women to property, in this case as inheritance. God recognises this and grants their request.

World population day was celebrated with the UNFPA calling for gender equality. Some three and a half thousand years after the guaranteeing of property rights for the daughters of Zelophehad and more than two thousand years after Jesus, in accepting Martha’s hospitality, acknowledged her as the head of her household, and celebrated the equal right of women to ownership and leadership in the home and society, the quest for equality lies unfulfilled by God’s people.

The issue of property and inheritance rights for women and girls is still outstanding, so much so that the United Nations has included it in their Millennium Development Goals as a priority concern.

Let us as leaders in the church and society, then not just follow the letter of the law as decreed by our God but embrace it and fulfil it as our Lord and Saviour did by working together as men and women, as brothers and sisters in Christ to end this apartheid of gender and seek genuine equality and partnership for men and women.

May light, love and peace flow through you to the world.

Liberation Theology: Trinitarian Communion with the Poor and Oppressed

This is a paper I wrote in 2005... interesting reading though considering the current attempts at "liberation", "revolution" etc in Fiji.


This paper briefly examines the divine communion of the Trinity in relation with the call for faith lived in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed that is at the heart of Liberation Theology. In this journey into the mystery of our faith and to the developing world where oppressive regimes exploit their fellow human beings, many brothers and sisters in Christ, for maximum profit and personal gain, our primary guides are Catherine LaCugna and one of the prophetic voices of Liberation Theology, Leonardo Boff. Given the often complicated writing of LaCugna, I will use her work on Liberation Theology in Chapter Eight of, God For Us,[1] as the starting point in which to consult with Boff’s work, Trinity and Society[2], which is a piece of dynamite in terms of a Trinitarian perspective of Liberation Theology. Therefore in addition to reflecting on LaCugna’s writing on the topic, this paper will focus on Boff’s contribution to how the Trinity can serve as a basis for Liberation Theology.


The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics defines Liberation Theology as a range of practical theologies characterised by: (1)claims to represent the concrete experience of groups seeking to understand their Christian faith in the midst of organised struggle against various forms of oppression; (2)the conception of the theological task within certain philosophical assumptions regarding the unity of theory and practice and the resulting shift in methodological focus from merely perceiving the truth to doing the truth; (3)the criticism of the ruling ideologies of oppression and the construction of alternative ideologies of liberation; (4)the affirmation of an intimate connection between the struggle of liberation theology and the authentic meaning of the Christian faith; and (5)an compromising prophetic view and confrontation of the oppressive characteristics of both mainstream churches and dominant patterns of society.[3]


According to LaCugna, Liberation Theology aims to address the polarisation between rich and poor, in support of an authentic human community characterised by equality, mutuality and reciprocity among persons.[4] She uses a term coined by the 8th Century Greek theologian John Damascene, Perichoresis to describe how the Trinity expresses its divine equality, mutuality and reciprocity[5]. Perichoresis is taken as meaning, being-in-one another, referring to the fact that we exist in relation to one another. LaCugna argues that as there is equality in the divine persons of the Trinity so, according to Liberation Theology, there should be an equality of human persons. She cites Wilson-Kastner who also insists that as Perichoresis upholds the values of inclusiveness, community and freedom as the form of life for God, it is therefore the ideal for humans if our life is to reflect that of the Trinity. Boff uses the concept of Patreque, Filioque and Spirituque (Son proceeds from the Father and Spirit; Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son; and the Father proceeds from the Son and Spirit) to describe his understanding of the mutuality of a divine perichoretic communion and according to LaCugna, this is Boff’s basis for the opposition to individualism, isolationism, asocial personhood, and by extension, liberal capitalism (which reduces people into means of production) and socialism (which invalidates differences among persons).[6]


Boff, writing on Trinity, Society and Liberation, describes the background conditions for the rise of Liberation Theology. He writes of the stigma of dependence for developing or third-world nations, such as ours here in the Pacific, under firstly, imperial colonial powers, then expansionist European capitalism and now multinational and trans-national capitalism of globalisation and resulting poverty and deprivation on already poor countries – inequality, injustice. One of the reasons for the perpetuation of this, according to Boff, is the individualistic or separatedness of the elements of the Trinity, which in turn reinforces negative human values. For example, the emphasis on God the Father, in agrarian and post-colonial societies, due to the Patriarchal system, results in a Paternalism which makes people objects of help which hinders development by maintaining dependence. This type of monarchic Father God, is supreme judge and absolute Lord and legitimises the might is right concept and is classified as a dominant, vertical relationship. In contrast the modern society based on horizontal relationships, where charismatic leaders inspire the masses, the emphasis on God the Son, means a heroic, humanitarian, leader figure of Jesus. Boff calls this the religion of the Son alone. Finally, the rise of Pentecostal, Charismatic and NRM’s provide for many of the upper and middle classes of society, enjoying, as Boff puts it, the benefits of an individualistic social system working in their favour, satisfaction of their religion through inward looking spirituality and for poor and oppressed classes, who have no real participation in society, a channel for expressing their need for freedom, respect and recognition. This Spirit-led concept finds its extreme manifestation in fanaticism and anarchy. This is the religion of the Spirit alone, its main relationship is with the inner self.

In this case then, the lack of coherence or communion in society manifests itself in the way in which the society experiences the Triune God, with an oppressive image of God, dominating leaders and pastors, and the danger of anarchism.[7] One can therefore see the need to liberate the notion of the Trinity based on communion or perichoresis.

Boff discusses perichoresis in terms of social symbolism, highlighting the interconnectedness and interaction of three basic structures of society: economic, political and symbolic. These three structures provide inclusion, organisation and meaning to society in the access to the ‘goods of the earth,” emphasis on social relationships and the common good, and recognition of human dignity.[8]The illustration that Boff terms Formal Symbolism[9] is an expression of the unity in diversity and mutuality or equality of the Trinity that inspires liberation for creation. In a circle there is no up or down, only the turning round. Boff believes that the communion of the Trinity is the basis for Social and Integral Liberation. The starting point for Boff in this respect is what is expressed in the illustration, that merely expressing the real existence of the Three (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is not enough. We must place an equal emphasis on the relationship that binds them together, that flows between them. Therefore, in expressing an option for the poor, Liberation theology calls on the experience of the Trinity. We seek a liberator Father God who hears the cry of the suffering and oppressed today as he did to the Israelites in Egypt. We emulate the expression of love and healing to the weak and outcast by the Son, Jesus who also entered in to solidarity with them, joining us with their suffering. The Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, empowers us with the gifts that enable us, on behalf of the community, to boldly undertake a truly prophetic and liberating action.

Some scholars and theologians, who have been critical of Liberation Theology, have pointed out that these concepts which place great emphasis on communion are socialist or communist in outlook. Boff’s response to this criticism or anticipation of the criticism is two-fold. Firstly Boff accepts that societies with a socialist regime are based on a right principle of communion between all and the involvement of all in the means of production, the basic understanding of the social value in society. However Boff also criticises Socialism for not recognising or reconciling differences between persons and communities but the imposition of the social element or value from above, by the Party. He states that the type of community that emerges from socialist perspective, when seen in light of the Trinitarian communion, is not that of perichoresis, as there is no recognition of individuals as different-in-relationship. For Boff the sort of liberated society that would emerge from inspiration by the Trinitarian communion, would be one of fellowship, equality of opportunity, generosity in the space available for personal and group expression. This society would not tolerate class differences, dominations based on power, whether it be economic, sexual or ideological, or that subjects those who are different to those who wield that power and marginalises the former from the latter.


For Pacific Islanders who are finding themselves oppressed in new ways, increasingly pushed to the outskirts and outside the boundaries of the global village, or swamped by the capitalistic, individualistic, materialistic waves of the tsunami of globalisation, liberation theology offers hope. As the concept of communion or perichoresis, embodies much of the Pacific emphasis on community, mutuality, equality and reciprocity, (even if equality is an as yet unachieved goal) it enables Pacific Islanders to understand Trinitarian communion in a way that resonates with them, and provides a culturally acceptable practical form of social praxis. Only a society of sisters and brothers who weave together a mat out participation and communion of all in everything can justifiably claim to resemble in some way of the Trinity, the source and solace of creation.

The following statement, in my opinion, suma up Liberation Theology in its Trinitarian sense: Liberation is communion; communion is respect, equality, mutuality and reciprocity. I would like to end with a quote that Boff uses. It is from Jurgen Moltmann who wrote:

“Only a Christian community that is whole, united and unifying, free of dominion and oppression, and only humanity that is whole, united and unifying, free of class domination and dictatorial oppression, can claim to respect the Trinitarian God. This is a world in which human beings are characterised by their social relationships and not by their power or possessions. This is a world in which human beings hold everything in common and share everything except their personal characteristics.”

Boff’s Formal Symbolism of the Trinity[10]


Boff, L. Trinity and Society. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1988.

LaCugna, C.M. God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life. San Francisco: HarperCollins,


The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics. Ed. John Macquarrie. Philadelphia: The

Westminster Press, 1986

[1] Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991)

[2] Leonardo Boff, Trinity and Society, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1988)

[3] The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics, ,ed. John Macquarrie, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1986), 349

[4] LaCugna, 266

[5] LaCugna, 270-273

[6] LaCugna, 277

[7] Boff, 13-15

[8] Boff, 107

[9] Appendix I

[10] Boff, 109


Reflecting on the recent Fiji Human Rights Commission’s report on the media in Fiji by Mr. James Anthony, in the context of our continuing socio-political crisis under the current military regime, a worrying pattern seems to be establishing itself. The Media is often called the “4th Estate” which refers to the role of the Media as the guardian of the public interest and the watchdog of the activities of the Government. The Media in this role of the 4th Estate is an important component of the checks and balances which are an integral part of modern democracy. But if the Media is the 4th Estate, what or who are the other 3 Estates?

The Estates General, originally established in France as the états généraux. First established in 1302, the Estates-General was a French legislative body comprising members of the three groups, or estates, of French society: nobility, clergy, and commoners. This model and variations of it was used in much of Europe from the 14th to 18th and 19th Century.

The following explanation takes into account the role of the Estates General in the British bicameral Parliament on which Fiji’s democratic structure is based.

The 1st Estate, known in early British Parliament as the Lords Spiritual were made up of the Clergy (Ministers of Religion). Senior clergy such as bishops held membership in the British House of Lords, the equivalent of Fiji’s Senate in the House of Representatives.

The 2nd Estate, known as the Lords Temporal was made up of the Aristocracy were titled peers; High Chiefs in our context, who held hereditary membership in the House of Lords (Fiji: Senate).

The 3rd Estate refered to the elected commoners; the masses, the workers; who were Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, which in our context is House of Representatives.

The Estates General bears striking resemblance to the “Three Legged Stool”(of Ratu Sir Lalabalavu Sukuna) or the “Trinitarian Solemnity” (of Rev. Dr Ilaitia S. Tuwere) of Lotu, Vanua and Matanitu.

Obviously the 4th Estate, the Media was missing from the equation back in the 18th Century and so it is only speculation as too what checks and balances it could have played during the failure of the Estates General, the ensuring French Revolution and the rise of dictator cum emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. However, even within the late 20th and early 21st Centuries one can still discern the pattern of oppression of the media by regimes around the world that use subterfuge to achieve its means and find a probing free press a major obstacle to achieving its intentions.

The killing of over a dozen journalists since former KGB officer Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in 2000 and the process of squeezing critical journalism out of the public space in Russia through censorship and restrictive editorial control bears witness to the lengths governments are willing to go to muzzle the media. Reporters Without Borders describes the “revolutionary success” of Cuba under former leader Fidel Castro as ‘one of the worst predators of press freedom.’ The Cuban constitution states that. “Citizens recognize freedom of speech and press conform to the needs of the state.” According to reports, between 2003 and 2005 approximately 32 reporters had been jailed after being found guilty of “working with a foreign power to undermine the government,” which carries sentences up to approximately 30 years in jail.

Without a vibrant, free media, the very real danger exists of a society where the only version of events available to us will be the “official” version, given by the government.

If we look back on the way that events have unfolded over the last 15 months, it is possible to see that a systematic dismantling of these four Estates is underway. The conflict between the Military Junta and the Methodist Church, and the inability of the Fiji Council of Churches or the Assembly of Christian Churches in Fiji to offer any meaningful resolution to this tension, is symptomatic of the attempts to remove the influence of the Church (the 1st Estate) in the political life of its people.

Similarly, the restructuring of the Bose Levu Vakaturaga / Great Council of Chiefs is an attempt manipulate or reduce the role of the hereditary aristocracy (the 2nd Estate) of Fiji in the governance of this nation.

The Military Coup of December 2006 was a direct assault on the Senate and House of Representatives (the 3rd Estate).

This new attack on the 4th Estate, one of the key cogs in the mechanism of modern democracy, seen in the light of the attacks on the other three Estates, will do nothing for building a better Fiji. Even the previous/ousted government undertook an inquiry into the media. Reports and recommendations were made and a bill was drafted, including calls for a broadcasting standards authority and a revamping of the Fiji Media Council. The “Media Bill” received widespread opposition from many sections of society, who value independent and free media, and was eventually shelved.

It will be interesting, to say the least, given that the regime has stated that not all reports are adopted, which of its increasingly commissioned reports and recommendations will be adopted and implemented. That should clearly show whether those in power are focusing on building a better Fiji or merely dismantling parts of the Fiji that it feels threatened and challenged by. It will help those of us who call Fiji home decide whether the ‘End justifies the Means,’ or whether results gained by anguish and peril do justice to the means by which they were achieved.

(Note: this article was kindly published by the Fiji Times in June, 2008 - I think. I wasn't blacklisted by Ministry of Defence / Immigration ... )

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Unofficial Soundtrack to the Fiji Military Dictatorship

Track 1: "Mister Know-it-all" - Stevie Wonder (Mahen's Theme)
Track 2: "Trouble Man" - Marvin Gaye (Frank's Theme)
Track 3: "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" - The Animals (Deportation scenes 1, 2 and 3)
Track 4: "Another One Bites the Dust" - Queen (GCC Reform Theme)
Track 5: "Bad Boys" - Inner Circle (Frank's Motorcade Theme)
Track 6: "What's Going On" - Marvin Gaye (Lai's Theme)
Track 7: "Who U Fighting For" - UB40 (RFMF Parade March Theme)
Track 8: "Rat in Mi Kitchen" - UB40 (FICAC Clean Up Theme)
Track 9: The "Godfather Theme" - Carmine Coppolla (The Military Council Meets)

Notes for listening:
Turn down volume on TV set during news. Play appropriate track on CD, MP3 player or just hum the tune or hear it in your head. Reflect, Realise and Grow.

Love, Light and Peace!