THE province of Ra has mobilised its 32,000 populace to participate in an unprecedented three-month prayer campaign that involves a ban on yaqona and alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking.
The ban on vices and promotion of spiritual cleansing is aimed at changing people's lifestyle and improving the standard and quality of life. The move by the provincial council also has the support of the heads of the various religious denominations and over the past two weeks, ceremonial lamps have been used in a village-to-village "walk of faith".
There are 20 districts and 112 villages in the province and the 2013 World Bank Report identified Ra as the poorest province in Fiji.
According to the report, 17,157 people in Ra lived below the poverty line and are or were engaged in mostly subsistence activities with no steady income.
Ra provincial administrator Kelepi Kubunameca said when the three months vigil ended, the province had support from the people to implement the same ban on the first 15 days of each month until the year 2016.
"The Ra Provincial Council and all other sectors within the province support the initiative because it's time that we take the Ra province to a whole different level," Mr Kubunameca said.
"The council and with the support of my office asked that people not consume liquor or yaqona or smoke during this time and also to spend more time with their families.
"Family time is very important and we have asked that every household, in the evening, have family time.
"Time with the Lord is equally important so we have set aside a time where everyone will join in prayer. They have to pray for their vanua and for their people and ask for spiritual guidance for the people of Ra."
He said the province also wanted to change the World Bank findings.
"We want our people to prosper and for that we need to change how we live our daily lives. We are starting with a change in attitude towards our families and a change in our spiritual lives.
"The Bible verse that we are living by through this time is 2 Chronicles 7: 14 - If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
He said government departments in Rakiraki were also supporting the initiative.
"For the police force in Ra, they are incorporating this into their Duavata Community Policing program and for other government departments, this is part of their community capacity building program. For the Ra Provincial Council this is strengthening the good governance of the iTaukei leadership program.
"So when you look at it, it really goes well with what we have already been doing."
Raviravi district representative Napolioni Nasara said the districts and villages supported the decision by the provincial council.
"It will benefit all aspects of our lives," he said.
"It's just been two weeks since we introduced the ban and for us in Raviravi, we are already seeing the positive changes taking place."
Mr Kubunameca said all kai Ra living in other parts of the country and around the world have been invited to join the prayer initiative.