Fiji Time: 1:51 PM on Tuesday 23 December

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Let us pray, churches say

Verenaisi Raicola
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fiji is a unique country with many practicing or non-practicing Christians.

So when there is a political crisis, unlike other countries where people look to politicians to resolve issues of importance our people look up to the churches for divine interventions.

In Fiji, where missionaries were involved in bringing in the light or modernisation so to speak when cannibalism and tribal wars existed, the church is seen as a pillar of strength or a revered institution.

That is why when this impasse between army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes intensified, people started looking to the churches for resolutions or assurances that nothing drastic was going to happen.

Today in Fiji Christians have been urged to pray and fast for divine intervention after the war of words broke out among the three key people whom our nation looks up to uphold good governance and transparency under the so-called rule of democracy.

Methodist Church in Fiji assistant general secretary Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu, who had a strong message for Fijians not to engage in any unlawful activities during this period, said fasting and praying was the best thing Christians could do while the leaders worked their way around a resolution to the impasse.

He encouraged Christians to return to the drawing board to pray and to turn away from sin if they wanted the healing powers of the Lord to work in our land.

Mr Waqairatu said Mr Qarase and Commodore Bainiamarama, who will be meeting in New Zealand after intervention by Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday, needed to be open to dialogue.

"This is a time when the nation needs to be reconciled, healed and cleansed and these leaders need to engage in serious dialogue with self-consciousness and compassion," he said.

He particularly asked Christians not to allow them to be used as instruments of darkness. "At this point we do not want to say who is right or wrong ... all we want is for dialogue to flow because that is the only way issues can be resolved in a diplomatic and amicable manner."

Assemblies of God president Reverend Pita Cili said last week the Assemblies of Christians Churches in Fiji met Mr Hughes and Mr Qarase, assuring them that they were behind the Government of the day.

Mr Cili said the impasse was a spiritual problem brought about by evil forces.

"So, if this is a spiritual problem it would only be solved by God's intervention," he said.

Mr Cili said the churches were fasting and praying for an immediate solution to the political situation here so the nation could enjoy a peaceful and memorable Christmas that was just a couple of weeks away.

Fiji Council of Churches General secretary Reverend Isireli Kacimaiwai said the church was mandated to pray for peace in our nation, which was its rightful place and role in the nation. He said 2006 marked the 171st year of the arrival of Christianity (lotu) to our shores.

And to date there are more than 50 registered Christian denominations here.

Depending on the way we look at it it can be safe to say that the lotu has grown and done much for the promotion of civilisation, including law and order in Fiji.

And we still hope and pray that the church will continue to grow and remain relevant in the changing context we are living in.

Mr Kacimaiwai said some questioned the role of the church in particular in the situation we faced.

"Perhaps they were expecting a lot more than its seemingly silent' position at this time.

"But the church was not silent in the literal sense.

"From day one the church have been asked to fulfill one of its priority and primary purpose, which is to pray to God for the peace of our nation. "

He said the churches had been praying that God intervenes and brings to nothing the secret intentions of those plotting misleading plans. He said he was encouraged to see how God was answering prayers.

"We need not be surprised if the answers are not exactly what we expect.

Mr Kacimaiwai said the church took this stand because it did not want to repeat the mistakes of the past events.

He said it was unfortunate there were elements in the church who were implicated in the previous upheavals of 1987 and 2000, which greatly damaged the image of Christians.

Mr Kacimaiwai said the challenge for the churches now was not to be engaged so much in the sides of the issues but to pray fervently and specifically for the welfare of our nation.

He said our prayers, our work and daily activities during this time can be guided by the experiences of the Jews who were exiled to Babylon by king Nebuchadnezzar. "This is an opportune time for the churches to rise to the challenge to mediate on behalf of the nation, in the challenges that we are facing to God.

"The church can not and should not watch as in the events of 1987 and 2000 but to take the leading role in praying for peace for our nation's cities, towns, settlements, villages and homes," he said.

"It is an opportune time for the churches to identify what God is doing in the nation.

"Perhaps in some ways God is shaking the created things so that only that which can not be shaken to remain' (Heb. 12:26-27) and the churches need to prepare itself for this shaking period.

"It is a good time for the churches consisting of all races and all ethnic communities to come together as one in praying for the nation.

"God has mandated the church to do so, the nation, even the world awaits our hurried obedience in fulfiling it," Mr Kacimaiwai said.