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Fiji Time: 11:01 PM on Thursday 24 April

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The year of the churches

Timoci Vula
Wednesday, January 01, 2014

IN a year when the law demands that Fiji become a secular State, the churches spoke out the loudest.

The Roman Catholic Church, the second biggest Christian denomination in the country, took centrestage in the appointment of its new leader to govern its members in the 300-plus islands archipelago.

After being selected by the Vatican and blessed by Pope Francis I, Father Peter Loy Chong became the new Archbishop in a pompous ceremony never seen before.

Replacing Archbishop Emeritus Petero Mataca, whose support for the government in its early days attracted criticism among the members, Archbishop Chong rose to unite the members and give the church a new direction.

Based on the principle of family, the Archbishop stressed the need to refocus on the true principles of Christian values.

And he stressed the church could not only be a private affair but a public one.

The country's biggest denomination, the Methodist Church, finally got to hold its annual conference, minus the annual bazaar and the infamous choir competition which the church has held over the last decades until 2006.

Once it had gone silent after being denied permits for meetings, the church has taken a turnaround and has become more vocal.

It has given praises when praise was due, and it has encouraged other religions on the special occasion with a simple message of love.

Now enshrined in the 2013 Constitution that the country become a secular State, churches are now more focused on the coming year, to unite people, focus on the young generation, break down barriers and renew family vows.

The church, with 200,000-plus members, said it would continue to take an interest in the status of society as this is part of the reason for the church's original formation. On the issue of the separation of church and state, it said the Methodist doctrine did not only focus on salvation or sanctification of the individual but of society as a whole.

"The church is called to witness by word and action, in worship and daily life the missio dei, God's intention for the world to show forth the way he is love, community, equality, diversity, mercy, compassion and justice," Methodist Church spokesman Reverend James Bhagwan said in an interview in August this year.

Other religions have become more participatory and in dialogue to address social issues, and encourage forgiveness, reconciliation and acceptance.

If 2013 was anything to go by, the future of this country is headed in the right direction if the churches stick to those principles set up in the years gone by.

Religious organisations are seeking a spiritual renewal in the new year.