RACIAL and religious differences should not be viewed as barriers but blessings that should be embraced.
This was the message from Minister for Youth and Sport Commander Viliame Naupoto to the crowd at Churchill Park to celebrate Fiji Day yesterday.
"We are now 43 years old as an independent nation," he said.
"Just like any growing child, we have stumbled every now and then as we learned to stand on our own and walk.
"We have been strong, in that every time we stumbled and fell, we would stand up and try again until we can stand on our own and now have grown into adulthood.
"Like any 43-year-old, we have developed our own wisdom. We are wise enough to understand that differences — be they racial, religious or otherwise, were not barriers but blessings that should be embraced."
Cdr Naupoto said the occasion was very special to every Fiji citizen, especially those fortunate to have witnessed the event in 1970.
Fast forward 43 years, he said, and the country was celebrating its coming of age.
"And as we celebrate we remember and thank those who helped shape the nation that we are today."
Festivities in the Sugar City kicked off with a march from Shirley Park led by the St Thomas High School brass band.