On 20 February, 2015, the President of the Methodist Church in Fiji took part in launching the Fiji Solidarity Movement for West Papua’s Freedom at the 2015 Social Justice Day held by the Ecumenical Center for Reasearch Education and Advocacy, Fiji Council of Churches (FCC) Pacific Conference of Churches and Youngsalwara Fiji. Under the theme of “Stand Up in Solidarity: Fiji Churches and CSO’s extending their Social Justice Mission to be the Voice for the West Papuan People in Fiji,” the Rev. Tevita Banivanua, delivered the following speech at Ratu Sukuna Park, Suva. Following the event, Rev. Banivanua was interviewed by ABC Radio Australia.
Speech by Rev. Tavita Banivanua, President of the Methodist Church in Fiji
Good morning friends,
I am grateful for the invitation to come and share a few thoughts as we mark World Social Justice Day and launch this movement of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in West Papua.
World Day of Social Justice is a day recognizing the need to promote efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment. Social justice is the basic foundation for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations.
It is said that: “We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants.”
“We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”
As many of you may be aware, our Christian community has begun the season of Lent.
Lent is a time of self-reflection, self-denial and spiritual growth as we walk with Jesus to Jerusalem, to the cross and to death for our sake. It does not end there.
After suffering and death there is the resurrection to remind us that evil, darkness and death do not have the last say in the story and that goodness, truth, justice and compassion are powerful virtues.
In the Methodist Church, our bible verse for Ash Wednesday, just two days ago, which mark the beginning of Lent is from the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 25 verses 31-46).
In this passage Jesus tells a parable in which he talks about having compassion and caring for the least among us. It is a reminder that for the Christian community, there needs to be a genuine care for the least in our society – for the weak, the marginalised, the oppressed.
This care, or compassion, or to use the term connected with today – Social Justice – is part and parcel of our faith journey. More than that, it really is part and parcel of who we are as human beings, as children of God, regardless of what kind of faith we have.
All major world religious have at least one teaching in common, you will find this in Christianity, in Islam, in Hinduism, in Buddhism, in Juddaism, in Sikhism, in Confucianism, in Taoism, in the Bahai’i faith and others. 21 faiths in fact have this particular teaching.
It is known as the Golden Rule:
“Do to others what you would want them to do to you.” Or to put it another way, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”.
As we mark World Social Justice Day, each one of us is called to commit to practicing the golden rule – the source of morality; the act of empathy, of putting yourself in the place of another – to be in solidarity with those oppressed and less fortunate brothers and sisters of ours. In particular we are called to speak for those whose voices are ignored or silenced. We are called to speak the truth in love.
For too long, we have failed to speak out against Indonesia’s brutal oppression of the West Papua people.
We are gathered here today to do just that.
We are here to speak out in love to our families, our community, our nation about the oppression of our brothers and sisters in West Papua and to call on all Fijians to join us in prayer, join us in solidarity and join us in speaking out about the tragic human rights abuses and violations committed against women as we have heard today, as well as men and children; simply because they live in a place that is coveted for its vast natural resources; and because they dare to dream and to cry out for the opportunity to determine their own future as a people – as we have also heard today.
Today we begin a movement of solidarity for West Papua.
This movement cannot be allowed to become stagnant. Let me repeat that. This movement cannot be allowed to become stagnant.
This is a movement which like the prophet Amos, calls for a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.
The Methodist Church in Fiji stands with our mothers and with our sisters, with our fathers and with our brothers and with our children in West Papua.
I call on my fellow brothers and sisters, who carry the responsibility for shepherding their flock, in the many Christian communities here in Fiji, to join us and those who have already begun, to walk with and speak out in love for the people of West Papua.
I call on all those who believe in a just and peaceful world to join us in this mission.
The people of West Papua only want what each one of us want: to live a life free of fear; to live a life free of violence; to live a life free of exploitation; to live a life free of oppression; and to live a life free of political interference and intimidation.
They seek to be able to plant and reap what they sow.
They seek to be able to use the natural resources that God has entrusted them with… in a sustainable and productive way; to secure a future for their own children and their descendants.
The prophet Micah reminds us what is good in the eyes of God. He writes:
“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
To the leaders of our beloved nation Fiji: we ask you simply to humbly open your hearts to the suffering of the people of West Papua.
We ask you to let Fiji be the rock in which West Papua can find refuge.
Our brothers and sisters of West Papua seek membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group as members of the Melanesian community.
West Papua looks to their big brother Fiji to take their hand, offered in love, offered in hope – and grasp it firmly, and pull them from the valley of the shadow of death in which they find themselves today.
We implore our government to support the West Papuan request to join the MSG – as a way giving them a voice in a world which has turned a deaf ear on their cry.
West Papua has been inspired by this nation’s boldness to seek its own destiny, as mentioned earlier. Let us not turn them away when they seek to follow our example.
Friends, brothers and sisters – today is only the beginning.
Let us continue to walk together, to work together and to speak together in love, until West Papua is able to experience the true peace, the Shalom, the Salaam, that they desperately seek.
I came here this morning wearing this small badge on my coat, which says simply, “All We Can”. This message is based on a saying by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. He said:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.”
As we launch this movement for solidarity for West Papua’s freedom, I say, “Yes we can.”
If we stand together, if we work together, we can!
It is my honour to officially launch the Fiji Solidarity Movement for West Papua’s Freedom.
May God bless us all, may God bless Fiji,and may God bless the people of West Papua.
Submitted by the Methodist Church in Fiji Department of Communications and Overseas Mission. For additional information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.