Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Twisting Hemispheres...

Over the last month, it has been hard to keep the Rugby World Cup out of conversations. Even with the Flying Fijians not progressing beyond the pool games – valiant and impressive as they may have been, the conversation round the tanoa, at tables, on buses and just about everywhere else has been not only about the World Cup but also about the issue of Tier 1 and Tier Two nations and the sense of discrimination felt by those in the second group that are often made to feel like backward relatives who are invited because they have to be and because they bring the best gifts to the party.

The fact that the last 4 teams remaining in the tournament were Southern Hemisphere teams may have been heartening for those of us who still think of the world as divided along the equator into the rich and powerful North and the poor and exploited South. Our past desire for strong “south-south” partnerships has been out of necessity as well as an expression of solidarity.

But we’ve also been “looking north”. The government for years has had a look north policy - politically, and economically. Our rugby players have also been looking north, to Europe, Japan, the Americas etc.

Perhaps we need to change our perspective.

I remember as a young boy meeting a man who visited my school, who was known as the Wizard of Canterbury. One of the interesting things I remember from his visit was a map he showed us. It was a map of the world, the kind we are used to, with one difference. The map was upside down for us  - with the South Pole, and New Zealand at the top and the North Pole and northern hemisphere at the bottom.

What a sense of empowerment my classmates and I felt that day. We were literally on top of the world! I have since often wondered what dominance of the southern hemisphere could mean for the world and what a rethinking of the hemispheres would do for how we see ourselves.

Could we go one step further?

Instead of North-South, perhaps we might benefit from an East-West orientation, split along the Prime Meridian of 0 and the Antemeridian of 180 degrees rather than the equator. The conventional split along the prime meridian is of course historically Eurocentric. Half way around the world from us is the Greenwich Observatory in Greenwich London, from where the first longitude was marked. Accordingly Western Hemisphere is the half of the Earth that lies west of the Prime Meridian and east of the Antimeridian, the other half being called the Eastern Hemisphere.

This means that, allowing for a few twists and turns, similar to the twist of the international dateline to ensure that Taveuni, Udu Point, Rabi and parts of Lau are not literally divided into yesterday and tomorrow (depending on which side of the meridian you may be), it would place Fiji, along with Melanesia, part of Micronesia, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, most of Africa, the “Middle East” and Europe in the Eastern Hemisphere also known as the "Oriental hemisphere". Polynesia, the Americas, Caribbean, Greenland, most of the as yet United Kingdom, parts of France and the west-coast of Africa would be the Western Hemisphere.

Looking at the world in this way could perhaps provide us with another perspective of the world and how Fiji with the world.

Taking this perspective to our favourite sport of rugby, the US, Canada, Argentina, Samoa, Tonga, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England and possibly France would be the Western Hemisphere rugby nations while Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Italy, possibly France (as there’s more of France on our side of the meridian) and even Russia could make up the Eastern Hemisphere rugby nations.

Could rugby as a sport benefit from tournaments within the eastern and western hemispheres? It is quite possible. Would spectators and fans of rugby enjoy these games? That is highly likely.  Would World Rugby agree to something like this? Given the recent reflections of Jeremy Duxbury (read “Rugby outcry” in the 5th of October, 2015 edition of the Fiji Times) – not likely.

How global trade and geo-politics would be shaped by such a shift in orientation would be an interesting discussion. Would trade agreements be renegotiated? Given our foreign trade and investments recently, we are already in business with many countries in the Eastern Hemisphere. Perhaps this orientation would strengthen our relationships with these partners and open up a few more markets.

The reality however is we are in a global village, or on the edge of the village. World Rugby is just another example of our place in the global village – providing the ingredients and doing the cooking, yet still waiting to see if there are seats available for us at the feast.

Yet, visualising the shifting our axis of symmetry or our orientation from North-South to West-East is really an exercise in contemplating the possibilities, the alternatives to the status quo. It’s a way of looking beyond our horizons and our comfort zones. It is a way to step out of our own worlds, and out of our own points of view and look at the other’s point of view.  

For example most of us tend to be urban-focussed people. Urban drift continues to be a major issue in Fiji. The Suva-Nausori corridor and increase in informal settlements bear testimony to this. There is also an urban-centric view, in terms of approaches to issues facing us.

In Monday’s Fiji Times (“Survivor shares story” F/T 26/10) my sister, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, raised an important issue regarding Breast Cancer awareness. After sharing her own experience she went on to challenge readers to move beyond the horizon of being satisfied with simply raising awareness in an urban-centric oriented approach to also look at the issues of accessibility, affordability and full information, to “good surgical options if needed but also treatment via radiation following a lumpectomy or any other early cancer detection.”

There is certainly a need for more rural-centric perspectives. Not just in projects and development but in also terms of what we value: from technology to nature, from materialism to relationship, from individualism to community, from ownership to stewardship, from out there to in here – from vertical and hierarchical or top down approaches to horizontal, participatory approaches which recognise our interdependence.

Sometimes that shift may be 90 degrees, sometimes 180 degrees. Or sometimes it may only take a small degree of shift to change the status quo and “level the playing field”.

Even if the shift is a 360 degree movement that brings you back to the same spot, something will have changed. The situation may be the same, but you and your perspective will have shifted all the way around.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”

Veilomani for the Boys

Off the Wall 21st October, 2015

My son turns eleven years old on Thursday and so we have begun to have more regular “father and son” conversations. Some are about adolescence and puberty, others about faith, growing up in a changing world and of course the ‘you’re growing up now’ conversations about self-discipline and social responsibility.

Yet there are some boys and young men who do not have that opportunity for “father and son” conversations, at least not in the conventional sense. These are boys raised by their mothers as solo parents, or by their grandparents and guardians, or by the state or care facilities.

In the past the Methodist Church in Fiji cared for orphaned or abandoned children at their orphanage in Dilkusha. However as the little boys grew to manhood, it became inappropriate for them to reside at Dilkusha, even though they were housed in a separate unit. With an increase in vulnerable young women and girls being brought to the home for care, the Church decided in 1970 to find an alternative refuge for the boys. After an exhaustive process of searching for a new location for a Boys’ Orphanage, a property was bought from the David Sharan Family of Ba. Veilomani Boys’ Home was finally established and officially opened on the 6th of November 1970. “Veilomani” taken as the i-taukei word for “Love” describing the Church’s efforts to give the much needed love for the boys.

From a small beginning of some 5 children the Home today caters for 24 children between the ages of 7 to 43. There are primary school children, secondary school children and vocational children with three senior boys. These senior boys were transferred from the Dilkusha Girls Home because of the age factor and continue live at Veilomani because of mental health issues. One of the older boys is now 38 but does not speak, the other is 38 but suffers from epilepsy and another aged 24 is mentally weak.

Like its sister institution, Dilkusha, Veilomani Boys’ Home is part of the Methodist Church in Fiji’s Department of Christian Citizenship and Social Services. It is an approved facility under the guidelines stipulated  bythe Fijian Government’s Ministry of Social Services minimum standards for all care giver institutions in Fiji.

Veilomani has been operating for more than 45 years. During these years the dedicated staff at the Home have endeavoured to provide a “home away from home” to all children. This means providing accommodation, food, clothes, daily needs, education, stationaries and other school requirements, opportunities to participate in non-formal education and spiritual and moral formation through local church activities (Church Services, Youth Fellowship, Sunday school, Bible studies, prayer fellowships etc.) sports, family get together etc. Opportunities are provided for children to create an identity for themselves by seeking, learning and developing their visions and talents; and to obtain the level of sustainability to be able to return to their own family, society, community and the nation at large.

It hasn’t been easy work. The Home situated on approximately 7 acres of land is basically a wooden building bought by the church way back in 1966. In 2012 the entire roof of the Home was blown away by cyclone T.C. Evan and it had to be rebuilt. Even with funds from the Church and from the government as well as donations and assistance received, Veilomani Home still carries a Bank Loan of $35,000.00 which it has been struggling to pay off.  This year the Home also had to come up with a $20, 00.00 premiums.
By 1985 it became abundtly clear that the children that were taken in the Home needed some form of training so that they would be able to find employment to earn a living. Thus in 1985 the Methodist Church built a small training Centre known as the Veilomani Rehabilitation Workshop. The young children were provided training in the following trade; Carpentry and Joinery, Automotive and Welding.

 Around 2005 Government also began to show interest and began to provide a small grant of around $15,000.00 per annum to assist the training programme for these young people.  BY this time children from various other homes began to show keen interest in getting trained and the Centre began to take in children as day scholars. By 2009 when the late (Rev Sarwesh Kumar Singh) took over the Superintendent ship of the Boys Home and also as the principal of the training Centre it had become very clear that there was a need for more professionalism in the training programme and provide training that could be certified and recognised and provide skills and qualification for the boys.

 After much negotiation with Government and the Church the proposal for recognition as a vocational insititute was accepted. This resulted in a change the name of the training Centre and inMarch 2012 the training Centre was renamed the “Methodist Veilomani Rehabilitation and Vocational College” and registered to become the 15th secondary school in Ba. The college now trains young people in the following trades:
a.      Carpentry and Joinery
b.     Automotive Engineering
c.      Welding and Fabrication

Apart from the following subjects that students choose to undergo training in, the students have to also undertake the following compulsory subjects – Math’s and English, Basic Computer studies, Agriculture and Bee Farming.

The Vocational College is also an inclusive special school and children with special need are also taught at the school. We have student who is deaf and dumb, young people with some physical impairment, etc. A lot of the children are slow learners or non-readers.

The greatest satisfaction for those who toil at the Home and the Rehabilitation and Vocational College is that each year some 20 young people find employment. Young men trained at Veilomani have found employment at the Gold Mines, at FSC and in many local industries in Ba.

Next Saturday, the 31st of October, is Veilomani Boys Home College “Open Day.” Held at the Home in Ba, there will be display of the work done at the College, and products, including their delicious honey, for sale. All proceed from sales and any donations received will go towards urgently needed blankets, pillows, bed sheets, kitchenware (utensils and other items) and mattresses for the boys.

If you are able to visit them for their Open Day please do. The boys will be glad to see you, even if you are just visiting. And if you are able to share your “Veilomani” with them, it will be returned in abundance.

Living History


On Monday I spent 22 hours on the island of Ovalau. It was my first visit to the island and the “Old Capital” of Levuka in 13 years. The last visit had been with the 2002 Commonwealth Games Baton as part of the build up to those games. The baton did the rounds of Fiji’s first capital including Delana, where a number of signatures (or marks) were made by chiefs on the Deed of Cession on the 10th of October, 1874.

My visit this week, however was not really in connection with the past, but more connected to the future. I was there for the first day of the Lomaiviti Division’s Methodist Youth Fellowship annual camp which coincides with Methodist Youth Week. The camp was held in Vatukalo village, which is just before St. John’s College in Cawaci. As secretary for communication and overseas mission for the Methodist Church in Fiji, I took a number of sessions on social media and the cultural shifts and challenges that young people need to be aware of in a media saturated environment that is one of the hallmarks of the 21st century.

The young people who are attending the camp come from the six circuits that make up the Lomaiviti Division with a number of young people either unemployed or working shift work at the Pacific Fishing Company Limited, PAFCO. Being a Christian programme we discussed the challenge for young people living and expressing their faith in an increasingly secular environment. In the evening at the welcome service I had the opportunity to not only preach but listening to the beautiful voices of the children of Vatukalo singing choruses. Other presenters at the camp this week include Fiji Media Watch’s media education team and a representative from the Police Cyber-crime Unit, as well as the Secretary for the Young People’s Department of the Methodist Church, Rev. Jone Davule.

During a break from the programme, the Divisional Superintendent of the Lomaiviti Division, Rev. Simione Ravaga, took me for a tour of Levuka to see what if anything had changed since my last visit over a decade ago. We visited Delana Methodist High School and the house in which the Deed of Cession was signed, the Fiji Corrections Facility in Delainasova where new CCTV cameras have recently been installed to bring the centre up to par with other Correctional facilities in Fiji and popped in to Gulab Daas and Sons, one of the oldest shops in Fiji.

Rev. Ravaga and I spoke about the challenges facing Levuka which has limited space for development both physically, as it is bordered by the ocean in front and the high volcanic mountains behind, and because Levuka was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2013. I recalled over two decades ago producing radio promotional advertisements for “Back To Levuka Week.” The week of the 10th of October is always of significance for Levuka, not so much for 1970’s Independence but for 1874’s Cession, with annual re-enactments of the signing of the Deed of Cession. This year’s Back to Levuka Carnival was used as a platform to raise awareness for the current generation on environment protection. Late last century, Levuka was a finalist in the “Tidy Towns” competition. This year’s carnival focused on the “3Rs” of "reduce, reuse and recycle," only fitting as Levuka was the venue for the recent National Climate Change Summit.

There are, however signs that the “Old Capital” is not being forgotten and has a future as well as a past.

I shared a ride from the airfield, Bureta Airport, into town with an engineer from PACFO who told me about the recent project for a new $13 million 4,000 metric-tonne freezer, which will allow storage of tuna to enable a regular supply for production of tinned tuna for US-based Bumble Bee Foods. Work is already underway on the site. Regular supply of tuna will translate into regular employment for the many for whom PACFO provides a livelihood.
There are fledgling industries in Levuka too. South Pacific Elixirs Company hopes to take the United States by storm with the bottled kava drink, “Taki Mai,” promoted as a “sports drinks to calm, sooth and relax the body” in Hawaii and mainland US in a number of department and health food stores.

There’s been a lot of activity in Ovalau recently. Earlier this year the Fiji Roads Authority rebuilt the road in the main street of Levuka to provide better drainage and repaired the street lights. The RFMF ‘sappers’ are working on repairing the bridge at Levuka Vakaviti Village. Climate Change adaptation measures are also evident with construction of sea-walls along the coastal road to protect villages. A full-time social welfare officer has also been appointed to Levuka recently.

We drove up to a clearing at Vuma Village where young people were working on the construction of a house. According to Rev. Ravaga, this house is the result of a project for 15 of the village youth which began in 2011 with their planting of yaqona. This year’s harvest has enabled the youth to contribute a third of the cost of the housing with the state providing the other two-thirds.

Back in Levuka, there are plans to make use of the UNSECO World Heritage listing to breathe new life into the ‘old capital.”

In May this year, a team from the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) of Australia has handed over a scope of works for immediate, medium and long guidelines for the preservation and restoration of historic sites in Levuka – focussing for the present on the Holy Redeemer Anglican Church and Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church. Plans are also underway, for more opportunities for discussion and collaboration by all stakeholders for the protection and management of “Levuka Historical Port Town” to improve its overall state of conservation, and ensure it complies with the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee.

Perhaps even the Fiji Museum, which lacks adequate space to display all its collections of artefacts in Suva may extend is little Levuka branch. The restoration of Levuka will inspire ordinary Fijians, as well as tourists to revisit our ‘living history’ and an ponder the future. 

Facing Our Fear - Pinktober 2015

My mother, Rachel Bhagwan, introduced me to the practice of walking for a cause. Over the years we have “walked” (a term I prefer to “march”) in for women, girls and children who suffer from violence, to reclaim the night, to raise our concern at the issues of water rights, human rights. We have walked in celebration. We have walked to raise awareness. We have walked in protest. We have walked in solidarity.

The last time I walked with my mother through the streets of Suva for a cause was last year’s Reclaim the Night March, on Saturday March 8th – International Women’s Day. It was not an easy walk for her. She was battling breast cancer at the time. Yet to encourage her two youngest grandchildren, to affirm the work for women which her daughter and eldest granddaughter we now doing and to support my efforts in rounding up some of our young men from the Dudley Church youth group to join the march – she walked. She set her best foot forward and kept her pace throughout the march. So consistent was her pace that at one stage during the march I had to ask her to slow down. When she asked why, I informed her that because the young women leading the march had tired and slowed down and, because of her consistent pace, she was now leading the march!

Earlier this year, she was “not feeling well” enough to walk in the solidarity march for West Papua. But she sent her blessings to share with her friends and those who knew her who were walking.

Last Saturday my dear mother walked with us in the FASANOC Women In Sports Walk & Talk to raise awareness on breast cancer as part of “Pinktober” the month of raising awareness on Cancer, particularly on breast cancer and other forms of cancer affecting women and funds for organisations that work with those facing the battle with cancer. Unfortunately dear mother was only present in spirit and in a picture that her little granddaughter Antonia carried  during the walk. She had won the battle with breast cancer, but lost the war, passing away on July 31st this year.

Last year when she announced to our family about her “lump” we rallied around her, as we had done in 2010 when my sister Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like Sharon she had her mastectomy and chemotherapy. We were grateful that she did not have to go for radiotherapy as Sharon had endured. The initial results were good! She recovered and was back in action, carrying on with her civil society work and generally doing good, listening to and helping those who needed an ear, or an advocate. We celebrated her 76th birthday in November. We celebrated Christmas. This year we marked her 1st anniversary of her mastectomy. Mum was strong. Mum was a survivor. But this was not to last.

Following Mother’s Day this year, her health declined. Rapidly. By the time test and scan results came back it was too late. Because mother had left it too late. The cancer had been removed from the breast last year, but had already made its way into the blood stream and to her brain. The test of the lymph nodes and all the focus on the breast cancer was clear, but the damage was being done elsewhere.

She struggled with dignity and with her amazing sense of humour, until she could no longer fight. It was a struggle for me, who had known this woman all my life as a vibrant, beautiful, spiritual force of energy, of activity, to see her lying helpless in bed. It took all my faith and courage to minister and care for her with my family members and finally guide her into eternal life.

The irony of it all was that along with my late father, my mother was one of the early advocates of breast cancer awareness. I grew up knowing about breast cancer in both women and men and have always known about self-examination for breast cancer. Both parents discussed cancer in men and women openly at home among other issues affecting life in Fiji. She had seen her own daughter’s battle with breast cancer and supported her through it.  Yet she had neglected to trust herself, her instincts in addressing her own condition until she was compelled to do so by the family.

Last Saturday, I held my daughter’s hand (and carried her on my shoulders when she got a little tired) as she carried her grandma’s photograph. We walked for mum/grandma. We walked for sister/Aunty Sharon. We walked for the mothers, sisters and daughters of our community, who have struggled, fought, survived and lost the battle with cancer, in particular breast cancer. We walked for our friends who have walked on and walked strong for their children and now for the children of others. We walked to remind ourselves to be aware of cancer as a reality in our family.

Later that morning I heard one of my sisters in ministry, Deaconess Asena Senimoli, share her experiences to those who participated in the FASANOC Women In Sports Walk & Talk. Like many women, she went through denial and looked at every reason and option under the sun to avoid facing the fact that she had breast cancer. Yet she was able to face her condition and fight it successfully. It is sad that we are only able to celebrate a few who face their fear and fight. Far too many of our mothers, sisters and daughters - as well as our fathers, brothers and sons - choose denial until it is too late to do anything but manage symptoms.

Yes, the idea of having cancer, any kind of cancer can be scary, for both women and men. Yet we must not let our fear paralyse us. To those who have family members facing cancer, or possibly facing cancer – support them to make the right decision to get tested and get treatment.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”


Off the Wall 2/9/15

You may have noticed the advertisements for Raksha Bandhan specials last week. Over the last weekend Raksha Bandhan was celebrated by the Hindu community specifically although it is also a many non-Hindu Fijians of Indian descent also celebrate the occasion.

Last weekend, as is her practice every year, my second sister Sharon, tied a rakhi on my hand and then lovingly stuffed a gulab jamun sweet in my mouth. She organised my daughter and niece to do the same (literally) to their brother and cousin (my son and nephew). My sister and I promised that despite our occasional disagreements and explosive discussions, we will care for each other, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Raksha Bandhan honours the sacred bonds between brothers and sisters. Over many centuries, the rakhi (from Sanskrit, “the tie or knot of affection”) has evolved from simple, handspun threads into bangles adorned in jewels, crystals, cartoon characters and even political figures. Typically, today, women present a rakhi to men and, in return, the men promise to protect the women who offer them a bracelet. Although usually associated with Hinduism, Raksha Banhan has reached a wider cultural status—often celebrated by Jains, Sikhs and even some Muslims across India, Mauritus, parts of Nepal and Pakistan.

A sister ties a colourful bracelet, called a rakhi, around her brother’s right wrist. This represents her love and prayers for her brother. It means that she will always pray that God will keep her brother safe. In return, the brother promises to look after his sister and protect her throughout her life. He gives his sister a gift of money or jewellery.  They give each other sweets to eat.

The word raksha means ‘protection’ and bandhan means ‘to tie’. Raksha Bandhan is a festival that strengthens family ties. Many women send rakhis to brothers who live far away. If a sister has no brother, she will give a rakhi to a cousin, or to a friend, as long as he is prepared to make the same life-long commitment. A number of my female cousins used to visit me to tie a rakhi on my hand, although now that they live overseas, they tend to send me an e-rakhi via facebook. The sentiments expressed and commitments made remain.

A number of stories explain how this popular festival began. One tells of a fierce war between good and evil, when the demon king, Bali, fought Indra, king of the gods. Indra was driven out of his kingdom and feared that he might be beaten. His wife, Indrani, prayed for help. Lord Vishnu gave her a silk bracelet to tie around Indra’s wrist. She was promised that it would keep him safe. The promise came true. When Indra and Bali fought again, the bracelet protected Indra. The demons were overcome and Indra won his kingdom back.

According to one legendary narrative, when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BCE, Roxana (or Roshanak), his wife sent a sacred thread to Porus, asking him not to harm her husband in battle. In accordance with tradition, Porus, the king of Kaikeya kingdom, gave full respect to the rakhi. On the battlefield, when Porus was about to deliver a final blow to Alexander, he saw the rakhi on his own wrist and restrained himself from attacking Alexander personally.

Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian Nobel Laureate for literature, invoked Raksha Bandhan and Rakhi, as concepts to inspire love, respect and a vow of mutual protection between Hindus and Muslims during India's colonial era. He later started Rakhi Mahotsavas as a symbol of Bengal unity, and as a larger community festival of harmony. In parts of West Bengal, his tradition continues as people tie Rakhis to their neighbours and close friends.

In India today, some suggest that Raksha Bandhan has become a secular festival, which in turn opens up the celebration to be an opportunity to express renewed love between siblings and sometimes between others who share a bond of brotherhood.

“Given that the pretty ornamental thread is an affirmation of a sister's love for her brother, the character of the festival is inclusive,” wrote Mohammed Wajihuddin of The Times of India, whose article quotes liberal Muslims and a Muslim cleric who recognised the inclusive character of the celebration. 

Raksha Bandhan, has transcended religious barriers. Here in Fiji perhaps it can also transcend ethnic and cultural barriers as an occasion to be thankful for family ties and pray for God’s blessing and protection upon those who are close to you.

Even Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13)

One of my favourite Christian songs with Brother and Sister in the lyrics is known as the “Servant Song”:

Brother, sister, let me serve you; let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christlight for you in the nighttime of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh I'll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow, till we've seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven, we shall find such harmony,
born of all we've known together of Christ's love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you; let me be as Christ to you;
pray that l may have the grace to let you be my servant too.

May we all find time to celebrate the bonds of love which bind us and commit to strengthening those ties which may have loosened over time.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”

Journeying Together in the New Exodus

The Methodist Church in Fiji had a historic moment yesterday as they passed a revised Constitution and a new Code of Conduct.

While the whole church and a number of working groups contributed to the constitution and the code, two unassuming Australians played an important role in compiling the final draft which was passed Yesterday (Tuesday).  Malcom and Marion Gledhill have become part of the story of the Methodist Church in Fiji’s New Exodus through their tireless efforts.

“It has been a great privilege to assist the Methodist Church in Fiji with the revision of its Constitution and Regulations, and the development of the Code of Conduct,” said Mr. Gledhill, after the Constitution and Code of Conduct were passed by an overwhelming majority of the Representative Session of Conference.

“We serve in Fiji as volunteers from the Uniting Church in Australia, a partner Church of the Methodist Church in Fiji. UnitingWorld is the agency of the Uniting Church National Assembly that sends volunteers to live and work alongside people in our overseas partner churches. When we work together, sharing knowledge and experience, we join with each other in the mission of God.”

Mrs. Gledhill, who is a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia said volunteering is always a two-way process.

“Overseas partner churches value the experience and knowledge shared by the volunteers, and the volunteers (and the Uniting Church) gain from living and working with the partner church. Volunteers find richly rewarding experiences from new friendships, and new knowledge gained. This has certainly been our experience volunteering with the Methodist Church in Fiji!”

“We have now made 4 previous visits as volunteers to the Methodist Church in Fiji – each of 4 weeks’ duration, and we were looking forward to our 5th visit for the month of August 2015 and the 2015 Annual Conference. We have appreciated sharing ideas, food and laughter, as well as sad times, with our friends in the Methodist Church. The Conference staff morning teas are always a highlight! We have enjoyed visits out of Suva, to a Church institution, or a village, or another town - the beautiful flower arrangements in your churches - your amazing choir singing and your generous hospitality. The deep spirituality of your Church life and the practices of Methodism have been a source of inspiration.”

Sadly, the couple arrived for our first visit in November 2013 on the day of the funeral of Rev Solomoni Vakaliwaliwa who had prepared the first draft of the revised Church Constitution for the 2013 Annual Conference. Mr. Gledhill benefited from studying his work and with the invaluable assistance of Church Executive Administrative Officer, Mr Patiliai Leqa and the Constitution Review Committee was able to prepare the proposed revised Constitution which was approved at its first reading at the 2014 Annual Conference.

Mr. Gledhill has also worked with the Constitution Review Committee on new Regulations relating to Ministers, Deaconesses, and questions to be asked at Church meetings, and other subjects. These new or amended Regulations were also be presented to the 2015 Annual Conference for approval.

What are the main changes in the revised Constitution?
•              a new statement of the core beliefs and purposes of the Methodist Church
•              a chapter on ministry that brings together the 2 ordained ministries – Ministers of the Word, Sacraments and Pastoral Care and Deaconesses, and the 2 accredited lay ministries - lay pastors and lay preachers
•              a new paragraph recognising that classes in the local church are the foundations of the Church structure
•              a more detailed statement of the authority of the Annual Conference
•              the list of official meetings of the Church includes the monthly meeting of the local church (bose vakarau) – the Circuit leaders’ meeting may agree that particular matters may be decided at the bose vakarau
•              a revised statement of the authority of the President to act if for whatever reason it is not practical for the Conference Standing Committee to meet 
•              some changes to terms of office of Conference officers and circumstances in which they will be eligible for re-election.

The development of the Code of Conduct was undertaken by a Consultative Group, working with Mrs. Gledhill, with final drafts being presented to the Standing Committee of the Conference. While codes of conduct and codes of ethics used in other denominations offered useful ideas, the final draft Code of Conduct for the Methodist Church in Fiji was developed to be relevant and appropriate for the Fijian context. Contributions from women members of the Consultative Group were particularly valuable.

“We stand in a long line of Christian people who have over the past 180 years travelled from Australia to Fiji and from Fiji to Australia to share in ministry and service. We honour the service of those who have gone before and trust that many will follow in future. We are thankful for the unique contributions that Fijian Methodists have made to the Church in Australia and say ‘thank you!’ for the welcome, friendship, care and hospitality that you have given us in our visits to Fiji. “

The Methodist Church in Fiji owes a debt of gratitude to the Gledhills and their sending Church, the Uniting Church in Australia for continuing to journey with their brothers and sisters called Methodists in Fiji in their New Exodus. 

“Praise Be”

Off the Wall 12/8/15

As the second term holidays approach, Suva City comes alive with multitudes arriving for not only the Hibiscus Festival, but also the Methodist Church’s Annual Conference, and Solevu and Choir Competition. With up to 788 choirs taking part in the week-long programme, the Choir Competition has been a prominent feature in the Fiji music scene for the last 50 years.

The history of a Methodist Choir competition in Fiji goes back to the inauguration of the Methodist Church in Fiji Conference in 1964, with the Conference Cup being awarded to the Raiwaqa Methodist Church Choir, conducted by Ratu Aca Dina Vunakece. Raiwaqa kept the Conference Cup for another 2 years before relinquishing it to Nasova/Nasese Church in 1967. In 1978, the cup changed to the Raiwalui Cup and was won by the Centenary Church Choir, conducted by Sir Josua Ralulu Rabukawaqa. Centenary also won the Methodist choir competition in 1981 when once again the cup was changed, this time to the Ratu Cakobau Trophy. The cup was to change names twice more, to the Koniferedi Cup in 1986, won that year by the Kadavu Choir and to the Ratu Aca Vunakece Cup in 2003, won again by Centenary Church. A separate cup, the Sir Josua Rabukawaqa Cup, for Category One Choirs (those with over 80 members singing) was launched in 1991.

This Friday the 2015 Methodist Church in Fiji’s Annual gathering will begin in Suva with children singing praises to God in Toorak’s Furnival Park. Out of the mouths of babes, the tone for the Methodist Church 2015 Solevu will be set. Yet for the first time, the Solevu will not be a choir competition but instead a festival of praising God through song, through music, and even in dance.

One may think that because there is no longer a trophy to sing for, the numbers of choirs participating this year would be low. However the desire to sing to the Lord, even a new song, and the fellowship at this annual gathering of the Methodist Community has proven very strong, with over 300 choirs registering for the festival of praise. It is also not only choirs that will take the stage.

This year, for the first time a special category of “Bhajan” or hymns in the Hindi language has been included in the programme. This will include both traditionally sung hymns, with traditional instruments being used, as well as hymns accompanied by modern instruments. This celebration of the diversity within the Methodist family also has traditional dances from a number of different cultures during the lunch hours.

The Solevu will be traditionally opened by the Methodist Fijian fellowships from the South Hemisphere, represented by New Zealand and Australia on the 15th of August and closed by the North Hemisphere fellowships, represented by the United States of America and Great Britain.

This celebration of faith in song, music and dance forms a prelude to the Annual Conference which will also have a number of significant moments.

The first of these will be the induction service of the President, Vice President, General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and department heads who were elected at last year’s conference. While the programme for the service is still being finalised, it looks to build on the last induction service in 2013 to be a further celebration of the inclusive community that the Methodist Church hopes to become through its Lakoyani Vou or New Exodus.

In a first for Conference, the ordination service for those ministers who have completed six years of ministerial formation and practical experience, will not be held on the Sunday following the conclusion of the conference but will take place during the conference itself, on the evening of Wednesday the 26th of August. This change frames the ordination service as part of the conference, rather than an event at the end and provides the newly ordained ministers with the recognition of the full conference who will be present.

While the business of conference, its agenda, is set by the Church’s constitution, this year will see a revised constitution presented to the conference for adoption, marking the end of a three-year process which included consultations with and recommendations from the congregations via the divisional annual meeting. The new constitution will bring in some positive changes for the church and also ensure that regulations and issues that need to be constantly updated to keep up with the Church’s journey can be done so without impacting the foundational document of the Church. Along with the new constitution, the long-awaited Code of Conduct for ministry and lay leaders, which also has been developed over the past two years, will be presented to conference for adoption. This will provide clear guidelines to the behaviour expected of their ministers, deaconesses and leaders for effective ministry for the people of God and for the protection and wellbeing of those they serve.

These changes, and other issues to be discussed, ring in a new song for a New Exodus.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”

Conversations on Justice

Off  the Wall 22/July/2015

One of the conversations which I followed with interest as an observer at last week’s Uniting Church in Australia 14th Assembly, was the conversation about the First and Second people and addressing dominant cultures within a community of faith that is striving to be inclusive.  The stories from the Assembly below illustrate the conversation.

First Peoples are sovereign Peoples
The Assembly accepted Proposal 25 to explore with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress what it would mean for the practices of the Church to recognise and affirm that First Peoples are sovereign. The proposal had been put on hold until the Congress could give more information about the words “sovereignty” and “treaty”.

Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan said the journey towards Indigenous recognition in the Australian community echoed the Uniting Church’s deepening relationship with First Peoples.

“As a Church we have recognition of Indigenous peoples. Now we need to think about how we take that further, and we are only taking the first steps towards that now,” said Mr McMillan.

“We need to have that conversation – if we recognise First People as sovereign, what does that mean? It is not just about saying the words, it’s about what that means for the way we engage with one another, the way we deal with property, and all those things.”

Tasmania Mission Development Presbytery Minister Michelle Cook noted that although there is a definition of sovereignty in the preamble to the Uniting Church Constitution, “The proposal is intended for the Uniting Church to explore what it means practically, with the use of property, ministry in our schools, everything.”

Another request was added to the proposal for Assembly Standing Committee to develop resources to educate the Church on the need for a treaty.

Opening a door for Indigenous recognition
The President, along with the Chair of Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in Western Australia, Rev. Sealin Garlett publicly demonstrated their support for the Recognise campaign in the middle of the Perth CBD last week. The Recognise campaign aims to garner support for a referendum to mend the historical exclusion of First Peoples in the Australian Constitution, and to eliminate racial discrimination in the founding document.

The two Church leaders met with Mr James Back from Reconciliation Western Australia outside the Wesley Uniting Church in the city. A five metre long banner was hung on the front wall of the church building, and a giant sticker featuring Recognise branding was placed on the busy pavement in front of the church.

Uniting Church in the City Minister Rev. Craig Collas offered a prayer as he stood by the sticker.

Rev. Garlett said the prominent placement of the banner and sticker was a tremendous statement in support of Indigenous recognition and would be a conversation starter for the hundreds of people who pass the church every day.

“This jars the door open for the community to meet us where we are,” said Rev. Garlett, who is also a Nyungar Elder.

“One of the things our community is very strong on now is that we have a lot of unanswered questions. There tends to be a normality of illusions and conclusions that people make. They put a mould on Indigenous people and put a capacity on where we are meant to be.”

He said recognising First Peoples in the Constitution was just the beginning of the conversation for the community. By unveiling some of the false illusions placed on his people this recognition would allow the Australian people to take the next step towards true reconciliation.

“We’ve worked with a lot of good intentions… it’s time to walk the talk.”

One of the proposals before the 14th Assembly was to continue to support recognition for Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution “as long as the form of recognition offered can be seen as a step towards and not a blockage to the larger issues of sovereignty and treaty”.

Annual Week of Prayer and Fasting for First Peoples
Every year the Uniting Church will have a week of Prayer and Fasting in solidarity with First Peoples on their journey towards justice and reconciliation.

The Standing Committee, in partnership with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), will facilitate the Week of Prayer and Fasting, which may involve a pilgrimage to the capital city.

The aim of the Week will be to deepen the Church’s covenant relationship with First Peoples, rather than the event being an end in itself.

The first Week of Prayer and Fasting was held in 2014 as part of the ‘A Destiny Together’ campaign calling for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

It included a prayerful protest on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, and involved Church members from all over Australia, led by ex-President Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney and former Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress Rev. Rronang Garrawurra.

Throughout the week, members, groups and congregations engaged in a discipline of fasting and prayer.

The first Week of Prayer and Fasting was organised as a response to the story-telling and listening to First Peoples at the 13th Assembly in 2012.

The decision to make this an annual event was presented along with a number of other Congress proposals aiming to take the relationship between First Peoples and the wider Uniting Church to the next level.

The Uniting Church President, said the Church’s call to prayerful protest was an important step in moving forward and journeying together.

Standing united against community closures
The 14th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia also stood as one to oppose the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities.

The symbolic action of solidarity was the result of a heartfelt plea by a contingent of youthful members who pleaded with the Assembly to respond to the potential closures.

The entire Assembly meeting including President Stuart McMillan, Nyungar elder Rev. Sealin Garlett and UAICC Chairperson Rev. Dennis Corowa moved outside the venue of the assembly, the University of Western Australia’s Winthrop Hall to signal as one their solidarity with indigenous people in threat of being forced off their land by Federal and State Government policies.

The full text of the youth statement can be read at: http://assembly2015.uca.org.au/standing-united-against-community-closures/

More on the Uniting Church and First people can be found at http://assembly2015.uca.org.au/14th-assembly-approves-congress-proposals/

Whether we belong to a church, a faith community or merely just wish to live in harmony with the diverse communities that have come to know Fiji as their home, there is much we can learn from these conversations that the Uniting Church in Australia is having. We can reflect on the issue of dominant cultures and minority cultures; the sovereignty of indigenous people; issues of justice, of listening to the hurt of people, and the hurt of the land. We can respond to these conversations by how we chose to live as a multicultural community that respects the deep spirituality of people, respects an understanding of relationship to the land, creation and each other; and listens to those in the margins not just as minorities, but as those whose experiences can empower others.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity” 

Being Church in times of Conflict

Off the Wall – Fiji Times

Four international church leaders shared stories about the history and current landscape of their church, and how the church is responding to conflict in their locality.

Rev. Sungjae Kim was the first leader to speak. He is currently the Vice Moderator of the Korean Christian Church in Japan (KCCJ) and will become Moderator of the KCCJ in October this year.As a prelude to his presentation, Rev. Kim shared a confronting video which demonstrated recent racial violence against Korean people in Japan. There is a strong history of animosity between some sections of the Japanese and Korean communities. Rev Kim indicated that the 580,000 strong Korean community who currently reside in Japan go to great extents to avoid discrimination.

The KCCJ was formed in 1945. Since its inception, the KCCJ has placed importance on assisting the marginalised and providing a voice for the weak.

Rev. Kim said that the church was determined not to close their eyes to injustice but to remain dedicated in assisting minority groups. The KCCJ is organizing an international conference to inform and share what has been occurring in Japan against racial minorities.

The second speaker, Rev. John Ruhulessin, is the Moderator of the Protestant Church of Maluku, a province in Indonesia. His presentation began with a brief recap of the history of violence between Muslim and Christian people in Maluku. He focused particularly on a bloody riot that took place in and around Ambon in January 1999. As a result of this riot and other violence, over 1,000 people were killed, and houses and churches were burnt down.

The Protestant Church of Maluku (PCM) has responded by working on ways to rebuild trust and support communities, particularly between Muslim and Christians. The PCM has also worked on ways to break down barriers between different religious groups, and change their theological mindsets. Focussing on education and dialogue has been key in this process.

In closing his talk, Rev. Ruhulessin commented on the impact UnitingWorld has had in the Maluku province. Community programs supported by UnitingWorld have worked to empower the capacity of women to make change by providing financial assistance in the form of loans. UnitingWorld’s programs have also helped to educate community members, Christians and Muslims, to live and work with each other.

The third person to speak was Mr Jan Rumbrar, the Secretary of the Department of Partnerships and Ecumenical Relations, who connects the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua (GKI-TP) with overseas church partners. He provided an update on the landscape of Papua and the GKI-TP. Mr Rumbrar stated that the GKI-TP has been living in difficult times for 52 years, beginning in 1963 when the Papua province was incorporated into Indonesia.

“Some people want West Papua to be independent, some want it to remain part of Indonesia” he said.

Mr Rumbrar provided a brief history of West Papua’s struggle. He also outlined the recent positive actions taken by President Joko Widodo since his election last year. President Widodo has promised to visit Papua three times a year to look at economic development projects, and has made changes that include allowing foreign journalists to visit Papua and the release of political prisoners.

GKI-TP supports the people of West Papua through programmess that assist with capacity building, legal assistance and trauma healing. The Uniting Church in Australia, through UnitingWorld, has supported a number of these initiatives. Mr Rumbrar said the church remained hopeful about the future, but knew that genuine dialogue with Indonesia was needed to move forward. Mr Rumbrar closed by quoting Galatians 6:1-9.

Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy (Bunu), the Moderator Church of North India (CNI), was the last international church leader to speak. Bishop Samantaroy provided information about the community violence against religious minorities in India, which includes Christian, Muslim and Sikh communities, amongst others. Hinduism is the largest religion in India with 827 million people, or 80.5% of the population, identifying themselves as belonging to this group. Christians make up a much smaller percentage of the population, and the CNI has a current member base of 1,250,000 people.
Established in 1970, the CNI is a united and uniting church – its formation brought together six denominations, covering a large portion of India.

Despite the massive diversity of cultures and languages in India, Bishop Samantaroy said that many people lived in harmony – and have done so for many years.

However, there have also been some right-wing Hindu groups and organisations who have aimed to “re-covert” Christians in India. Bishop Samantaroy said although the current Indian government is secular, they have done little to stop violence towards minority religious groups. He noted that there have been attempts to “saffronise”, or homogenise, Indian society. He said this has largely taken place through the renaming or usurpation of Christian festivals, and the rewriting of school history books to reflect and incorporate distinctly Hindu perspectives.

Bishop Samantaroy closed by commenting on recent violent acts against religious minorities. He said that the CNI responded to these acts with protest marches and candlelight vigils. They also focussed on networking with people of other faiths (including Hindus), working with civil society organisations, discussing Christian unity, encouraging grassroots mobilisation, and working on dialogue with the government.

Bishop Samantaroy said that despite these challenges, the CNI is growing stronger every day.

“A Distinctive Voice”

Off the Wall 8/7/15

The newly appointed Vice-President of the Methodist Church in Britain Conference has called for the Church to find its distinctive voice in her inaugural address.

Speaking to the Conference gathered at Southport late last month, Dr Jill Barber questioned 'Where is the Methodist voice?' Dr. Barber suggested that through a renewed focus on the four 'P's of Prophesy, Prayer, Passion and Protest Methodism can find its voice, speak out to make a difference and speak more effectively whilst embracing its distinctiveness and diversity.

Introducing the address Dr. Barber said, "Part of the problem of course is that we don't and can't speak with one voice. The strength of Methodism is that it is a democratic movement of people, with many different views about how we should work out our Christian discipleship. But we can't stay silent. God calls us to speak out. It is not easy grappling with how to live with contradictory convictions, but that is our calling."       

“The Trade Union movement owes more to Methodism than it does to Marx. I am enormously proud of that.  It draws many visitors to Englesea Brook, where I am the director of a Heritage for Mission project which focuses on the story of Primitive Methodism. One visitor memorably announced, 'I am anti-God, but a Methodist in my DNA.'  It was a great conversation starter!”

Dr. Barber said that one of the questions she is  frequently asked is, 'Where are the Methodist voices today?'

“What is our distinctive Methodist voice? And how can we gain confidence in sharing our own faith story? Part of the problem of course is that we don't and can't speak with one voice. The strength of Methodism is that it is a democratic movement of people, with many different views about how we should work out our Christian discipleship. But we can't stay silent. God calls us to speak out. It is not easy grappling with how to live with contradictory convictions, but that is our calling.”

“How can we find our voice?  I believe this is a key challenge, if we are to make a difference to individual lives, and bring hope to a world whose future is threatened by violence and climate change.”

"Have we lost that passion for living out the gospel through social and political action?  Is there a danger that we have privatised our faith, so that it makes us feel better as individuals, but we fail to relate it to wider community and global issues?  I want to call on Methodists to get involved in local and national politics. To become a voice for change, challenging the politics of self-interest and upholding the politics of the common good."

According to Dr. Barber, equality and empowerment are at the heart of our Methodist identity.

“Lay people have a voice as well as ordained people. John Wesley accepted that women could have an 'extraordinary call'.  In the early 19th century, when the Wesleyans banned women from preaching, it was the 'Prims' and Bible Christians who recognised that God pours out his Spirit on daughters as well as sons. Women were sent out as evangelists, speaking God's words in places that others sometimes feared to go.”

“For the early Methodists it didn't matter how young, or how old you were.  'If you know the love of God in your heart then stand up and share it brother! - or sister!' In the little hamlet of Englesea Brook, Sarah Smith, a farm labourer's wife, taught the children to read and she also taught them how to pray.  She then started a prayer meeting in her cottage, led by the children.  Six of those children went on to become itinerant ministers, including Ann Brownsword and her brother Thomas, known as the 'boy preacher'. The youngest person I have found on a Methodist preaching plan was 11 years and 8 months.”

Ending her address, Dr. Barber told the inspiring story of Dorothy Ripley whose prophecy, prayer, passion and protest saw her become the first woman to speak to Congress in Washington, speaking up for those who had no voice

Dorothy Ripley lived in Whitby, where her father built the first Methodist Church, and John Wesley was a frequent visitor. Dorothy experienced a call to preach, but as a woman, the church would not accept her. One day, while she was praying, Dorothy heard God calling her to go to America to preach freedom for enslaved people, and convict slave holders of their sin, so they would set people free. This was before the Anti-Slavery Society in England, let alone America, but Dorothy felt she had to obey God's call.

A single woman, with no money, she set out to walk to London to find a boat that would take her to America. Eventually, she found a Quaker sea captain in Bristol who would take her.  On arriving in America, Dorothy decided she must go first to Washington, to tell the President what she planned to do.

Everyone thought she was mad, but she told them she had to obey God not man. Amazingly, Dorothy got an interview with Thomas Jefferson, and had the courage to ask about his own slave holding, urging him to have compassion for his 300 slaves. When she asked for his approval for her mission, he warned her that she would have an uphill struggle, but they parted 'in peace'.

The Dorothy decided to make her base in Charleston, the stronghold of Southern slavery. (Its legacy is still with us.And of course that place is very much in our minds. It was here, only last week, that nine people were killed in a racial attack at the African Methodist Episcopal Church.) For Dorothy, it was an immensely brave move, and she narrowly escaped several attempts on her life.

Dorothy must have made a tremendous impression on Jefferson, because in 1806 she became the first woman to speak to Congress. Apparently, she preached to a crowded audience with the same evangelical fervour as if she was at a camp meeting!

Dorothy saw herself as an evangelist. She travelled for over 30 years throughout America, and crossing the Atlantic at least 9 times. In 1818, we find her in Nottinghamshire, where she opened the first Primitive Methodist chapel in the county at Bingham, and was thrown into prison for open air preaching and inciting a riot. She was an amazing woman, who was not owned by the church, because her voice was too radical.

Dorothy Ripley was a woman of prayer, and lived by what she called the 'Bank of Faith'. She had a passion for sharing the love of God with others. She acted on God's call to love her neighbour, and spoke out for those who did not have a voice. She was prepared to challenge individual sin and sinful systems that enslaved people. She changed lives.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity” 



Greece has effectively voted to default on its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union, and it is a massive defeat for Germany's Angela Merkel and the trio of creditors she led that insisted there was no way out for Greece but to pay back its massive debts.

The vote is huge lesson for conservatives and anyone else who thinks this is about a dilettante government of left-wing idealists who think they can flout the law while staging some kind of Che Guevara-esque dream:


This is what capitalism is really about.

From the beginning, Merkel and the EU have operated from the position that because Greece took on debt, Greece now needs to pay it back. That position assumed — bizarrely, in hindsight — that debt works only one way: If you lend someone money, that money is repaid.

But that is NOT how free markets work.

Debt is not a guarantee of future payments in full. Rather, it is a risk that creditors take, in hopes of maybe being paid tomorrow.

The key word there is "risk."

If you're willing to take the risk, you'll get a premium — in the form of interest.

But the downside of that risk is that you lose your money. And Greece just called Germany's bluff.

The IMF loaned Greece 1.5 billion euros, due back in June, and Greece isn't paying it back. Greece has another 3.5 billion due to the ECB in July, and that looks really doubtful right now.

This is how capitalism works. The fact that it took a democratically elected government whose own offices are adorned with posters of Lenin, Engels, and Guevara to teach this lesson to Germany is astonishing.

More astonishing still is that Merkel et al knew Greece could not pay back this debt before these negotiations started. The IMF's own assessment of Greek debt, published just a few days ago, states: "Coming on top of the very high existing debt, these new financing needs render the debt dynamics unsustainable ..."

"Unsustainable"! Germany's own bankers knew Greece couldn't pay this back. And yet Merkel persisted.

Take a look at Greek gross domestic product. To pay back debt, you have to have a growing economy. That's a basic law of economics. It's how credit cards work. It's how mortgages work. And it is how sovereign/central-bank debt works. But Greece's economy was never in a position to benefit from debt, because it has been shrinking for years.

There is another key fact that the Greeks are keenly aware of (but that everyone else has forgotten). This debt was initially owed to private-investment banks, such as Goldman Sachs. But the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB) made the suicidal decision to let those private banks transfer that debt to EU institutions and the IMF to "rescue" Greece. As Business Insider reported back in April, former ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet insisted that the debt transfer take place:

The ECB president "blew up," according to one attendee. "Trichet said, 'We are an economic and monetary union, and there must be no debt restructuring!'" this person recalled. "He was shouting."

The result was that the ECB made this catastrophically stupid deal with Greece, according to our April report:

And so there was no restructuring agreed for Greece. The country paid off its immediate debts to the private financial sector — investment banks, basically — and replacement debt was laid onto European taxpayers. The government agreed to a package of harsh government spending cuts and structural reforms in exchange for loans totalling €110 billion over three years.

Trichet made a colossal, elementary mistake. The right place for risky debt by definition is in the private markets, such as Goldman. The entire point of private debt investment is that those creditors are prepared for a haircut. The risk absolutely should not be borne by central banks that rely on taxpayer money for bailouts.

Had Trichet made the opposite decision — and left the Greek debt with Goldman et al — then Sunday's vote would be a footnote rather than a headline in history. "Goldman Sachs takes a bath on Greek debt." Who cares? Goldman shareholders and clients, surely. But it would not have triggered a crisis at the heart of the EU.

Italy, Spain, and Portugal are now watching Greece closely and thinking, hey, maybe we can get out of this mess, too.

Now, before we all start singing "The Red Flag" and breaking out old videos of "The Young Ones" in celebration, let's inject a note of realism. Greece isn't actually a country full of crazy socialists who don't understand how the foreign-exchange markets work. In fact, a huge chunk of the country's tax-collection problems stem from the fact that there are two and a half times more self-employed and small-business people in Greece than there are in the average country. And small businesses are expert at avoiding tax, Greece's former tax collector told Business Insider's Mike Bird recently.

Conservatives who hate paying taxes and urge small businesses to pursue tax-avoidance strategies take note: Your dream just came true in Greece.

If Greece were more socialist — more like Germany, with its giant corporations that have massive unionised workforces paying taxes off their payrolls — then tax collection would be a lot higher in Greece.

Greece is now most likely an international pariah on the debt markets. It may have to start printing its own devalued drachma currency. It will have no access to credit. Sure, olive oil, feta, and raki will suddenly become incredibly cheap commodities on the export markets. Tourism in Greece is about to become awesome. But mostly it will be awful. Unemployment will increase as Greece's economy implodes.

But the awfulness will be Greece's alone. Greece is now on its own path. It is deciding its own fate.

There is something admirable about that.

SOURCE: http://www.businessinsider.com/greece-referendum-result-and-the-meaning-of-debt-2015-7#ixzz3f8qhD5Jt

Towards a Saved and SAFE Community

Off the Wall Wednesday 1st July, 2015

A few weeks ago, I shared about the call for a “Saved and Safe Church” within the Methodist community in Fiji and the church’s taking ownership of its role in the issue of gender-based violence and child abuse, by conducting its own workshop with male participants from Methodist Men’s and Youth Fellowships.

The participants were introduced to and reflected on the themes of Gender-based Violence and Child Protection through a series of Bible Studies led by Rev. Dr. Cliff Bird from Uniting World’s Pacific Office., Presenters at the workshop included representatives of the White Ribbon Campaign, the Fiji Police Force, the Pacific Conference of Churches, and the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre.

On the final day of the workshop the participants were grouped according to youth and men’s fellowships and ministers. They were then tasked with reflecting on the lessons learned and making personal and group commitments, action plans and also recommendations for the departments of the Church for programmatic activities as well as proposals for consideration by the Standing Committee and Conference.

Theological / Spiritual Commitments:
·  The word of God needs to be preached and taught correctly, (Vunautaka vakadodonu, kakua na were ubiubi taka na vosa ni Kalou),including teaching and preaching of Social Justice.
· There was a recognition and appreciation of lessons learned through the week’s biblical and theological reflections – in particular Galatians 3:28 – Gender Equality (Kalatia 3:28 Tagane Kei na Yalewa Tautautavata)
· * Nomudrau wasea vata na vakatulewa / Sharing commitment to both genders.
· * Me da veisau taka noda bula eso e rawarawa ni da kaya sega ni rawa ni da cakava. / We need to change the mindset of doing things that we say we can’t do.
· Prayer, including chain prayer is important to the process of changing hearts and minds (Masumasu – Me vakalevutaki ) so that congregations commit to living and acting according to the Word (Bulataka na vosa ni Kalou.).

Personal /Group Commitments: (Mathew 6:6)
· Taking responsibility to discourage and avoid participating in degrading/dirty conversations about the opposite sex during kava sessions.( Na vakayacori ni coro e bati ni tanoa:  Mo tarova o iko,  Lako tani mai kina , Me da veisautaki keda ). This also includes reducing the consumption of kava and using the space for useful discussions on important issues (Vakalailaitaki na gunu yaqona. Kena ceuraki na ulutaga vinaka me veivosaki taki).
· Take precautions when using the internet and media. (Qarauna na internet kei na media.)
· They also committed to sharing about this programme with their own families to inculcate a culture of respect by men towards women & children and to hold awareness programmes on men as advocates against gender-based violence and violence against children in churches, circuits and divisions with a view to changing attitudes & mindset.

Proposals for Church and Community:
· Regular grassroots training on gender-based violence and child protection in all levels, (Kauta sobu na vuli ena vuvale vaka Talatala Tabacakacaka – Wasewase veivolekati), by training local trainers from all divisions and circuits. (Vakalevutaki na vuli -Me da dau tiko kina nai Talatala. Me vakarabailevutaki na vuli qo).
· Inclusion of this issue in informal teaching sessions, such as after sports training (Qito – oti na tereni, caka na vuli).
· The inclusion of these topics from Sunday School to Fellowship and Bible Study/Cell Group (Mata Siga) discussions for deeper understanding (Me vakararamataki na veika e dau tukuni tu ni vakatabui.) / Sacred things needs to be clarified clearly.
· Be open to and participate in programmes on gender-based violence and the protection of children.
· There are too many programmes which focus on groups within the family. The church needs to ensure that there are family oriented programmes and activities in the circuit. (Rui va levu nai tuvatuva ni Lotu ka lailai nai tuvatuva ni Vuvale eg. Mon: MYF Tues: Marama Wed: Lotu Thurs: Turaga Fri: Matasiga). Children should not be left alone ( Lesi eso na tamata nuitaki me ra yadrava nodra bula nai tabagone). Visitation is a key factor here, eg. Telling kids not to go to the local shop at night time. (Veisiko-Na nodra tuberi, kakua ni ra talai na sitoa ena bogi).

Recommendations to Conference, Church Leaders and Department Secretaries:
· Participants urged that gender-based violence and child protection should be included as one of the courses Davuilevu Theological College (Me tauravaki me dua na lesoni mai Vuli Talatala) as well as the need for a Consultation Department for Counseling purposes. (Me dua tale na Department ni Consultation vei na Counseling.)
· To help with preaching on such issues, refresher courses for all lay preachers should include, “Contextualization of Sermon” (Refresh course vei ira na Dauvunau ena veituberi me Contextualization Of Sermon).
· Major Evangelism Programmes, need to be focused all to the youths (Ke dua na veivakalotutaki levu me caka sara ga ena loma ni Mataveitokani).
· All those that are implicated in gender-based violence or violence against children in any way need to be disciplined in a way that maintains the integrity of the Church (Me ra vakacegu saraga vakadua ko ira kecega era vakayacora nai tovo/vakarau lolovira qo).
· They called on church departments to communicate issues widely for awareness as well as full Recognition of the Men’s Fellowship including representation in conference.
· Participants also highlighted the need for the acceptance of the shift from conservative theology that has been reflected on during the workshop against violence against women, for equality between women and men and the protection of children for divisional superintendents and circuit ministers to preach at the pulpit. (Me dikevi tale mada ka vakasamataka na cioloji eda vakayagataka tiko enai ka 21 ni yabaka drau.)
· The Church Annual Conference must be bold in addressing social and political issues that affect families in a negative way, by speaking truth to power. The Church needs dialogue with the Government on the policies regarding nightclubs, internet caf├ęs/shops, understanding and impact of a secular state. (Me vakatura na Bose Ko VIti ki na Matanitu me dikeva tale mada eso na policy, eg. Nightclub, Internet Shop, Secular State.)
As one looks at the three different reflections, commitments and recommendations, it is easy to find similar views on what needs to be done. The first step for participants is the realization that conservative theologies and mindsets need to be changed and this change must be lived out in families and groups as well as shared in the community of faith. The second is that this programme is important enough for the church to be implemented at all levels. Finally there is a call for the Church to be bold in not only speaking out on the issue but addressing the root causes and underlying structures that support all forms of gender-based violence and violence against children.
Reflecting on the workshop in his closing address, Secretary for Non-Formal Education, Rev. Semisi Turagavou challenged participants to look beyond the legal approach and cultural attitudes to the issue of gender-based violence, suggesting a situational ethics approach of focusing on the situation and looking for a long-term solution. He urged participants to not be satisfied with only dealing with the immediate situation or symptoms of the problem but to peel back the layers and look at the core, root of the issue.
This workshop is only the first step. Other workshops are planned around the country this year. It is one small step for the three departments which facilitated the workshop. Yet is also a giant leap for the Church in addressing these issues and making sure the discussion and action is taken seriously by the Church.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”