Christians Engage in Fiji Coup Debate

Christian voices were heard in the debate following the recent bloodless coup in the heavily Christian populated nation of Fiji.

A group of church leaders from the South Pacific island nation condemned the coup by the new military regime headed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama. The church leaders described the coup as a “manifestation of darkness and evil,” according to The Associated Press.

In addition, the Council of Churches and the Assembly of Christian Churches took out newspaper advertisements pressing the military to restore the democratically elected government.

Fiji, a group of islands in the South Pacific, experienced its fourth coup in two decades on Dec. 5. The country consists of 52 percent Christians with 37 percent Methodist and nine percent Roman Catholic.

Some directed their criticisms at the churches, finding fault with the churches’ response to the recent coup compared to the one in 2000. The Roman Catholic Church’s Archbishop Petero Mataca said the church remained silent in 2000 when an ethnic-Indian prime minister was ousted, according to The Canadian Press.

Only days prior to the Dec. 5 political overthrow, a group of church leaders met in Suva, Fiji, for the third Global Church Planting Congress of the Global Pastors Network. The gathering was held Nov. 29 – Dec. 1 in the midst of the staging of the military coup. The faith leaders met to set goals and form strategies to reach the some 1.8 billion unreached people in the world, in particular Oceania during the third congress meeting.

“In the midst of the staging of a military coup in Suva, key church leaders came together from the islands of the South Pacific - from Australia and New Zealand up through the 22,000 islands of the 22 nations in Oceania,” wrote GPN president James O. Davis. “The military coup, still threatened at any moment, could not damper the spirits nor weaken the resolve of these mighty Christian leaders.”

Politically, there was also little evidence of change in Fiji following the coup, according to The Canadian Press. Soldiers, citizens, and traffic seemingly went about as usual. There were some military reappointments and removal of senior civil servants however.

Fiji’s new government has been attempting to stabilize its power by announcing Tuesday it will crush any attempt to set up another government, leading some to speculate that although the coup itself was bloodless it might not remain non-violent. The post-coup government has also taken out want ads to fill vacant cabinet jobs and attempt to garner support from powerful groups in the country.