The Following Article was banned from publication in
The Fiji Times (for 21/04/09) by military censors
under the Public Emergency Regulations Decree 2009
(It was considered seditious)
Last Friday I attended my first parent teacher interview, which also coincided with Children’s Day. Even though my children are only in kindergarten, it was good to get feedback from the teachers as to how my son and daughter are developing, both in terms of learning and activities and their interaction with other children. As the only parent who is a “talatala,” I was asked to take the devotion for the children and their parents. It was a wonderful experience for my little four-year old son to assist me by saying the prayers after my short reflection. I had a glimpse of how my father must have felt when I assisted him in his services.
We often look at our children and see their potential for greatness. We see a future prime minister, a future doctor, the next Serevi, the leaders of tomorrow. But we must always be mindful that it is not so much what we say to them but what they see in us, what they see us do, that makes the lasting impression. The future prime minister can just as easily become a future murderer and the successes of tomorrow can always become the criminals of tomorrow.
That evening I led a second devotion, this time for the local Methodist Youth Fellowship. These young Christian men and women gave up their Friday night to kneel in solitary prayer and open their hearts to their God and pray for their families, their friends, and perhaps more importantly their nation.
Despite what some say, prayer is action. These young people in their chain prayer believe that the best and most peaceful action they can take during this time is prayer.
Many of you may remember the Peace Vigils during the political crisis of 2000 and since during times of upheaval. Men, women and children of all races, religions and walks of life gathered at the Holy Trinity Church in silence, with some spoken and sung words as well to pray, reflect, meditate and support each other.
One of the organisers of the Peace Vigil said, “To "keep vigil" is to watch and to wait. It is a time to step away from busyness and to tend to our spirits. For many of us the recent events have not allowed much time to think.
Prayer vigils are a time a time to stop for a moment, to find within ourselves the peace we want to see take shape in the world, to calm the mind, to listen for the still small voice inside that help us faithfully respond to the events around us and not just to react.
Often this is a time of silence but silence is not passive. It is a component of non-violence. It is in the stillness that the seeds of hope and the seeds of action are sown. And silence is not isolation, for when women come together for peace our silence can resound throughout the nation. Our silent vigil is our active demonstration that non-violence is a critical requirement for sustainable peace.”
We all know of the difficult days ahead, the global and local economy is struggling and looks get worse before it has any chance of getting better. There are many reasons to throw our hands up in the air in frustration and give up. We may feel powerless in our own situations but through prayer we can not only receive strength, we commit our concerns to a higher power, a God that moves in mysterious ways. Hearts can be touched, minds can be changed and relationships can be changed by the power of prayer.
Wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever faith journey you travel, you have a space where you worship, where you can join with others to either silently reflect and meditate or actively pray for the nation.
When you pray, please do not just pray for yourself and your families, your village or community. Do not just pray for the people you know and the needs that you have. Remember that as you pray, others whom you may not know, whom you may never meet, may be praying for you. Please pray for all those in positions of community, religious and national leadership.
There is a well known prayer by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr that I would like to share with you:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
May the rest of your week be blessed with love, light, hope and peace.
Until today I had a weekly opinion column, “Off the Wall with Padre James” in The Fiji Times. I received no monetary gratuity from the newspaper and considered his writing as part of his pastoral responsibility. The “Off the Wall” column will not appear in the Fiji Times or any other local publication until the immoral and draconian intimidation of the media by the current regime ceases.