Published in the Fiji Times as "Off the Wall with Padre James Bhagwan" Wednesday 15th October, 2008, p7
Greetings from 'Merry Olde' England!
I've never been the kind of person to make New Year's resolutions. I have always preferred to make birthday resolutions because I see that as the beginning of my year. This can be somewhat confusing to people who only make resolutions between December 31st and January 1st and then struggle to maintain them for between twenty-four hours to three hundred and sixty five days. I've always considered my birthday as my “New Year” and it is the day I choose to reflect on the year past and the year to come. You may call it a moment of personal praxis.
It goes without saying, though, that before, during and even after this rather deep, and one hopes, meaningful moment, there is a cause for celebration. One has survived another year on planet earth with all its challenges.
So many of us found time amidst our daily struggles of nation-building, power-grabbing, roadside protesting, riding out the storm of the global economic crisis or just trying to put food on the table and a roof over the head to remember out national day. For some it was a day of parades; some an excuse for a pool party; others a day to sleep in. Some spent time with their families, some spent time in jail. Some prayed and fasted, while some feasted.
In the United Kingdom, so I have informed, Fiji Day celebrations began as early as the weekend before, while some are yet to happen, scheduled for this weekend. We had a wonderful Fiji Day reception at the Fiji High Commission in London, with High Commissioner Pio Bosco Tikoisuva and the High Commission staff the consummate hosts. Guest ranged from members of the Diplomatic Corps, former Harlequins rugby players and former Fijian citizens and residents to Fijian men and women serving in the British Army and some of us who have found ourselves here for work, study and play.
There was some small talk of the situation at home, particularly the recent High Court ruling on the legality of the President's actions in December 2006 and the interim government. Some were of the view that now all those who have been sitting on the sidelines, using the question of the interim government's legality as an excuse would have to do more talk. Some just said, “Taki!” or led boisterous renditions of “Bula Malaya” and “Lomaloma”.
For many though, it was a time to catch up with fellow Fijians. Old friends, new friends and even long lost relatives. The Fiji Way was quite evident on Fiji Day.
However, once the celebrations faded and as I travelled through the countryside, enjoying the somewhat rare sunshine and warmth for this time of year (so I have been informed), my thoughts returned to the contemplation of our nation's future.
Our President, in his Fiji Day address, highlighted the imperative for the “leaders in the Church, the Vanua and the Government” to work together, speak and listen to each other for the sake of not just the nation-state, but the sake of all who call Fiji home.
The significance of the High Court ruling on the eve of the commemoration of our Independence should not be ignored. I understand that many of my brother and sister Fijians are disappointed and bitter by the outcome. I understand that many of us consider the President's call for unity and cooperation merely more of the same annually spouted rhetoric.
Yet I firmly believe that every time we come to a fork in the road; every time we are at a crossroads or watershed in our lives or the life of our nation – there is a choice that must be made and a direction that is travelled. We chose which path we walk along. We can continue to walk the road which we believe is our own, the path we have always walked; or we can take a look at the signpost and try to figure out if this new path, this new opportunity will take us closer to our destination.
The road travelled together is never an easy journey. Our leaders must take care to lead their people to a safe haven, not merely to their best friend's house. They must be prepared for people not to want to go in the direction they want them to go, acknowledging that there might be another way, a better way, not necessarily the 'high-way'. Above all our leaders must remember the golden rule of travelling in a group: 'you can only go as fast as the slowest member of the group.'
I would like to share with you a little prayer that I was fortunate to offer at our gathering in London. It is a simple prayer, as prayers at big functions usually are. It is brief, yet for me it shares many of our common hopes and desires:
“Almighty God, Creator of the Universe:
As we gather here on this day to celebrate, to remember and join in fellowship as sons, daughters and friends of Fiji;
We pray for your continued blessing on our beloved nation.
We thank You for the times of triumph despite the ongoing challenges we face as a nation, knowing You have been with us always.
Give us the grace to grow in love, service and obedience to Your laws, by what ever mean we come to know them.
Have mercy for our failures Lord and make us into a people who will not forget You.
We pray for the Vanua: the land, the sea and the sky and all that is within it. We pray for your protection as we face the effects of climate change...rising seas, more intense cyclones, drought and flood. Help us to keep our covenant as good stewards of the land, to use the resources you have given us for the greater good as well as ourselves.
We pray for our nation - strengthen and defend us in our daily struggles to be a land of freedom and of hope. Continue to give us the courage to endure whatever may befall. Let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
We pray for the spirit of reconciliation, tolerance and understanding to fill our people, O Lord; that we may grow united in love and appreciation for who we are as Fijians.
May we extend a hand to each other in selfless giving even when we feel we are the ones in need. Teach us to choose our leaders well.
We pray for our leaders: national, religious and within the community - give them Your heart and wisdom to govern humbly and justly. Make them worthy examples for the youth to emulate.
We pray for those who serve the cause of peace – as peace makers and peace keepers. We pray for our nation to be a place where mercy and peace – the fruits of unconditional love will thrive in abundance.
Loving God, as we thank you for the last 38 years of independence, we ask you to help us be a people who are interdependent... who can rely on each other as brothers and sisters , who can work together to truly build a better Fiji.”
May the rest of your week be blessed with love, light and peace.
Reverend James Bhagwan is an award-winning radio and television producer and writer. He is currently on leave from the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College where he is a member of the Faculty. All opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinion and policies of the Methodist Church in Fiji or any organization that Rev. Bhagwan is affiliated with. firstname.lastname@example.org