A strong wind is blowing in the household of God. Amidst the winds of rapid social change which are raising wave after wave onto our shores in this new century, another kind of wind has started to blow. A single yet solitary wind which is encircling the Christian community and pulling them, slowly, together.
Last Wednesday evening, I joined a social gathering of church leaders, organised by the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA), as part of its sustained dialogue process. Those in attended represented the diversity of the Christian faith that exists in Fiji. There were leaders of churches that are members of the Fiji Council of Churches as well as those which belong to the Assembly of Christian Churches in Fiji. There were some who belonged to both group as well as those that belong to neither.
The general agreement in the room that evening was that it was time that the churches in Fiji begin to seriously think about how they could work together for the common purpose of the Kingdom of God and just as important, how they could speak together on issues which affect the society in which they serve. While this wind has been gently blowing for some time, with various church leaders and civil society organisations quietly fanning the glowing embers, all those gathered together felt that the time had now come to fan those embers into a flame.
The Christian term for such a feeling is the awareness of “Kairos”, an ancient Greek word meaning the "right or opportune moment." It is used to define a specific time that exists in between regular time ("Chronos"); a moment of undetermined period of time in which something unique and special happens. The Christian understanding of Kairos is that “this is God’s appointed time”.
The following day, I began to facilitate a two-day symposium on Communication Rights for Peace, organised by the World Association of Christian Communication (WACC) Pacific and supported by the Ecumenical Centre for Research Education and Advocacy (ECREA), the Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF), Fiji Media Watch and FemLINK Pacific. Many of the same church leaders were there. Building on the momentum from the previous evening, the statement for the International Day for Peace they collaborated on, is perhaps the first combined statement of this magnitude by Christian leaders in Fiji for over a decade.
The statement is a reflection on Archbishop Peter Chong’s address at the opening of the symposium which challenged church leaders to dismantle unequal power structures in society and to speak not only to their members but to the context of 21st century Fijian society. The statement also serves as an affirmation of the context in which the leaders of diverse Christian communities can speak with one voice. It is also a proclamation to society as well as a message of empowerment and encouragement to the members of these faith groups on living their faith both personally and publically in society.
Below is the full text of the statement:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
We, servants of God call to lead in Christian Churches in Fiji[i], having reflected on the imbalance of power structures and a coup-culture in Fiji; and the role of the Church in communicating a just, compassionate and peaceful society; recognise that:
· It is no longer possible for us to pray, preach and do theology with our backs to the suffering of the people;
· This is an opportune time (Kairos moment) among the Christian Churches in Fiji to move towards working together in our common mission of the proclamation of the gospel and to speak with a common voice on issues that affect the society in which we live and serve;
· Peace as Shalom is living in active anticipation of the fullness of life; understood by us as the gift of God through Christ.
· Peace begins with each person practising equality, simplicity and humility. Peacebuilding continues especially in the midst of intolerance and injustice existing as patron-client politics.
With one voice, we affirm that:
· Our God is a liberating God who hears the cries of the people (Isaiah 61:1 / Luke 4: 18,19).
· The Kingdom of God
o exists when there is peace, love, justice freedom and respect for human dignity;
o extends wherever God’s will is done on earth;
· we are called to participate with God in bringing about God’s Kingdom.
With one voice we proclaim to society:
· The path to democracy must be inclusive and participatory and walked in humility and love.
· True democracy in Fiji includes the transformation of power structures from patron-client to one in which people participate freely and responsibly in the political affairs of our country.
· True democracy in Fiji exists when the culture of silence has been transformed into a culture of dialogue in which all people are empowered to speak up, voice their concerns and express themselves.
· Faith, both in its personal and public expression, can help us move towards democracy.
· In the tradition of the Prophet Micah we call:
o For the transformation to a society of peace where, “swords are to be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks” (Micah 4:3)
o For the transformation to a society of respect, compassion and justice where, “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).
o For the transformation to a society of tolerance and inclusiveness and recognition of our diversity where, “all the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.” (Micah 4:5)
With one voice, we say to our communities of faith, the Body of Christ in Fiji:
· We are called to model God’s love in our day to day life.
· We are called to speak truth in love – that separates evil from righteousness.
· We are called to act with trust and faith in God’s liberation.
· We are called to listen to the hurt of God’s people and inspire them to hope.
· We are called to live in holiness, simplicity and humility.
· We are called to strengthen our relationships with each other and build relationships, through dialogue with our neighbours.
· We must commit to working and speaking together in our common mission of contributing to the actualisation of God’s Kingdom and God’s shalom.
We express our appreciation to WACC Pacific, the Ecumenical Centre for Research Education and Advocacy (ECREA), the Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF), Fiji Media Watch and FemLINK Pacific for their support and collaboration with us in this symposium and we affirm our commitment to work with civil society organisations as we walk towards a truly democratic, peaceful and prosperous Fiji.
While the International Day for Peace is on the 21st of September, tomorrow (Thursday 19/9) there will be a “Peace Vigil” at the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral. The Peace Vigil, between 1.30pm to 2pm is a space in which people can either quietly reflect on peace and the need for true peace in our context, or they can sing or share peace messages. This will be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the call of these faith leaders for peace.
Regardless of our faith traditions, we can draw inspiration from this bold and passionate message from these faith leaders, who have been inspired to speak with one voice and commit to walking with all Fijians in the journey to true democracy.
“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”