Fiji’s Christian Police Force Compared to Taliban

The official website of the Fiji police force carries a remarkable report, published in June:

Suva wakes up to heavenly noises as Fiji’s Police Force Band and officers excite the Fijian Public with Gospel music and dancing and sharing a common bond- Jesus Christ.

And this is the ‘Only strategy’ the Fiji Police Force is now implementing in the hope of changing the lives of people whose lives have led them to live a hurtful, troubled, criminal resulting in making irrational choices.

A recent article in the Brisbane Times gives a bit of background:

A “Jesus crusade” led by Fiji’s police force has been compared to the rule of the Taliban.

Editor in Chief of the Fiji Times, Mr Netani Rika, addressed journalism and communications students at the University of Queensland yesterday, telling them of life under the illegal rule of interim Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

Mr Rika said police converts to the fundamentalist New Methodist Church had replaced military personnel as in-house censors in newsrooms.

…The head of the new Methodist Church is the brother of the Police Commissioner, a close friend of Mr Bainimarama and former Fiji Navy Commander. The Police Commissioner is regarded as the second most powerful position in Fiji.

…An Associate Director of `Uniting World’, a Uniting Church body operating in the Pacific, said he was investigating reports that preachers from Australian pentacostal [sic] churches were funding the New Methodist Church in Fiji and were sending people to preach there.

A piece in the Fiji Times itself explains that:

WHEN Atu and Raijeli Vulaono registered the New-Methodist Christian Fellowship on August 5, 2002, they caused little more than a stir in the Christian movement in Fiji.

…Today, the General Superintendent of the New-Methodist Christian Fellowship, Senior Pastor Atu Vulaono says they have 20,000 members in Fiji and abroad, mainly Australia and Europe.

There is not much evidence of connections with foreign evangelists; Atu was apparently converted while listening to a sermon from Calvary Temple on the radio, and the brothers were influenced by a certain “Reverend Doctor Kim of Korea” when he visited the country in the 1990s, but there are no visible connections to the wider global Pentecostal “scene”. The church’s European branch has a rather uninformative website here.

The church’s link with the police is also stressed in an article published today, following another conference:

“Their vision and our vision are the same,” Mr Vulaono said.

He said he and Police Commissioner Esala Teleni were brothers and that no one could take it away from them.

“Looking for souls, when the police came up with this vision, we fully supported it,” he said.

“I already said so many times that we support police work 110 per cent because the two organisations have the same vision.”

Teleni was in the news in February, when he attacked non-Christian ethnic Indian police officers; Stuff.co.nz reported that:

One of Fiji’s top coup plotters, Police Commissioner Esala Teleni, has launched an attack on Indians in his force, calling them backstabbers and liars.

And he says any of them who oppose his Christian mission will be booted out of the force.

…”I don’t know what’s wrong with you people,” he told the Indians.

Teleni recently launched a high profile Christian police crusade and at the meeting he says he never forced the Indian police to join it, only he encouraged them.

…”I have a list of people; I’m going to start terminating their services. I am not hesitant to do that… No one is going to deter me and my Jesus. I never talk about your religions. I never discuss your religions because I respect it. But at the same time you just respect my religion. You do not go to the press.”

Fiji TV said Teleni then issued what sounded like a warning: “You’ve never seen my…my other side.”

An unsourced report at a blog entitled Soli Vakasama tells us that:

While speaking at the Assemblies of God Church Conference, Commodore Esala Teleni said he dismissed some police officers after the Holy Spirit spoke to him that these officers were transporting drugs to Sigatoka and were involved in some major robberies.

Commodore Teleni stressed that he has told all the members of the force that he wants full transformation.

He said the Holy Spirit has spoken to him that the only way to modernize the force is through the crusade.

And a blog entitled Coup Four And A Half, which publishes news censored by the government, alleges that in May

…all those based at the Central Police Station in Suva were called to parade in the CPS car park. What was supposed to be a normal weekly parade turned into a religious sermon of 10 minutes by a preacher of the New Methodist Church, a non-police officer. The sermon was done in the Fijian language, so Indians and others who have little understanding of the language were confused.

In his opening remarks, the preacher told 300 officers and ordinary policemen and policewomen that Jesus Christ is the “only way and only truth”. The preacher added that Christianity is the only true religion and that other religions are untrue.

On the other hand, another Fiji Times report suggests that the church does not want to be antagonistic against other religious groups:

CLOSE to 4000 youths marched the streets of Suva yesterday to declare God in their lives.

…It is not only for our church but also for all believers because in the kingdom we are all one.

“We don’t want to declare war against any other religion or any other race but against the dark force that is our enemy.”

The church has links with other establishment figures, as well as with sportsmen. In April, the Fiji Times reported on a “Be A Man” Conference organised by the church:

It has become a nationwide conference that has captured the attention of many and its growing popularity includes the participation of public figures like France-based rugby winger Filimoni Delasau, former national rugby 15s skipper Ro Alifereti Doviverata and Navy Commander, Francis Kean.

Meanwhile, the old Methodist Church is facing restrictions on its activites – in particular, its conference has been banned by the military government. The August issue of Touchstone, a New Zealand Methodist publication, is available as a pdf from here and has further details:

The government put an indefinite ban on Methodist Conference after a motion for discussion was circulated within the Church on the current political situation. The motion rejected the moral authority of the military government, and made 10 demands, including that the 1997 Constitution be reinstated and elections be held by the end of 2009.

Further:

One reason leaders of the Methodist Church in Fiji (MCF) have decided to take a confrontational approach against the government over its annual Conference may be that they believethe government is promoting analternative Methodist Church in orderto undermine them.

…The New Methodist Church has taken a prominent role in a new initiative the Fiji Police have taken to reduce crime by promoting religious values both within the police force and in the community. Waisea Vulaono says he split from the MCF and established the New Methodist Church 10 years ago.

The reasons given for the split are differences over worship practices – in particular music and Pentecostal phenomena – as well as the MCF’s lack of fundraising initiatives and its willingness to indulge the chewing of kava. Waisea (the article’s name for Raijeli), explains that:

“The old Methodist Church is more concerned with the things of this world than the word of God. They want to uphold Fijian culture rather than the Holy Spirit”

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