THE Methodist Church in Fiji was ordered to pay a father and son $28,000 after an alleged exorcism organised by Methodist Church on their island village led to the destruction of their vacant home.
Father and son Ravuama Vonu and Akariva Vura filed claims against Reverend Simione Koroi, the Methodist minister on Gau Island, church steward Keverieli Vonu, the Methodist Church in Fiji, police officers on Gau, Commissioner of Police and the Attorney-General.
In their claim, the father and son said they had a house in Nacavanadi Village on Gau but didn't stay there because Mr Vonu stayed in Suva while Mr Vura was teaching on Koro Island.
In April 2007 when Mr Vonu went to his village he found the house had been broken into and the chattels were broken or damaged and missing and the concrete floor was smashed and the earth underneath dug up.
The explanation given to Mr Vonu by his relatives in the village was that the Methodist minister and the steward brought a woman to Nacavanadi Village from Naivikinikini in Lami who supposedly had cleansing powers.
During the prayer session at Nacavanadi Methodist Church, a member of the congregation supposedly became possessed with a spirit and the spirit told the congregation Mr Vonu practised witchcraft and worshipped a skull — supposedly in the house.
The minister, Mr Koroi and the steward Mr Vonu with the support of members of the congregation broke into the house and damage the house but didn't find a skull.
The plaintiffs alleged the first and second defendants breached their respective duties of care as church officials of the Methodist Church in Fiji.
In conclusion, the court said the church minister, being a religious leader in the area where people looked up to him for guidance, had misused his authority.
"He not only failed in his duty of care but induced the people in the village to destroy the properties of the plaintiffs and I have no hesitation to hold him liable for the damages caused to the plaintiffs' house and the chattels," Justice Chandrasiri Kotigalage said.
The Methodist Church was found to be vicariously liable because the church was the one responsible for the minister and failed to exercise their duty of care. The court ordered Mr Koroi and the Methodist Church to pay $28,045.76 to the father and son within 30 days.