A GROUP of young people came together at a panel discussion at the University of the South Pacific (USP) on Wednesday to discuss the need for a secular state.
The discussion titled 'Constitutional conversation: Secular state — freedom of thought, conscience and religion' was jointly organised by the Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni (ELFA) and USP's School of Government, Development and International Affairs.
The youths expressed their views about political representation and governance and shared their personal experiences with religion.
"It stops being the good news when one says you are less of a human being than I am simply because you are not the same as I am.
"Or when people like politicians for selfish reasons misinterpret the Bible for their own self-gain with the intention of causing harm to others," said Filomena Tuivanualevu, a feminist and a practising Catholic.
"Again for this reason and many more I would like Fiji to be a secular state where there is equality, Christians and non-Christians alike."
Another panellist, Narisha Karan said it was how people interpreted religion and religious texts that led to misunderstanding religion.
She said taking the Ramayana as an example where the female character, Sita is interpreted as submissive and weak, and it was through these interpretations that the community created stereotypes.
"Honestly, I think religion and state are in such a bad marriage that you wish they would separate and they would be so much happier without each other," she said.
"State should be non-biased. Fiji is a multi-cultural and multi-religious country. So many views, and beliefs, so how can we say this religion is better than the other?"