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Churches in the Pacific must make radical changes and ingrain indigenous ways of worship, a panel discussion in Suva was told.
Speaking at the Inaugural Pacific Philosophy Conference in Suva, Reverend Tafue Lusama, the general secretary of the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu, told the conference that the unique ways of the people of the Pacific need to be maintained and kept alive in our ways of worship.
“We are still adopting and keeping the ways of the colonialists, we wear suits to church as men, our women adorn white dresses topped with a hat in 37 degree heat all because this is what we were taught,” Reverend Lusama said.
“We must stick to what is ours. Our way of living was something we were given by our descendants and if we push it aside and not keep it alive, we will lose it forever.”
“Our children will be known as Pacific islanders but that is all that will tie them to these beautiful oceans.”
The moderator for the Presbyterian Church in Fiji, Reverend Nikotemo Sopepa, said the church in Oceania needs to take the lead in advocating and accepting those with different preferences to what is ‘normal’ in the Pacific.
“If we are not accepting, if we are not going to include the people who have different preferences to us, then what has our role become.” Sopepa said.
He challenged the conference - an initiative of a partnership between the University of the South Pacific (USP), Fiji National University (FNU), Pacific Theological College (PTC) and the Pacific Association of Non-Governmental Orgnanisations (PIANGO) which aims to revive traditional wisdom to help solve social problems that accompany the western concept of development - to take an active role in pursuing things that will bring more unity in our islands.
“Before we were all separated into different groups such as Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia. We were all one people. We were meant to be that way, we must return to that old way of living. We are the Oceania, people rich with knowledge, traditions and culture synonymous to our individual groups,” he said.
The head of the Catholic Church in Fiji, Archbishop of Suva Peter Loy Chong said the church in the Pacific should continue to work to embrace all indigenous communities.
“We have recently had a series of meetings where we have been talking about strengthening our work with the ‘vanua.’ If we are to embrace change that is happening around us, we need to work to enhance what is already there.
“Religion plays a pivotal role in society. Religion is key to pushing forward what we believe in because it embodies our beliefs and our work.”
Discussions ensued the presentations with questions around the relevance of the church, the various theologies and how they relate to the people of the Pacific.
“We are unique, what we bring to the table is synonymous to us as people of the Oceania. It is only right that we protect and talk about it. Share it and inculcate it into our communities and our people, said Archbishop Chong.
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