Friday, January 13, 2012

NZ General Synod delegates in danger if they go to Fiji

I have written to some leaders in our church requesting that someone in authority writes to each member of our General Synod, informing them of the increased risks they run by participating in General Synod in Fiji in July this year.

The recent lifting of one set of martial law restrictions on public meetings has been placed by more draconian ones. A member of GS speaking in a manner deemed offensive by soldiers present at the GS could be arrested and once arrested will have virtually no rights as there is no legal means to challenge the arrest.

It would be naive to think that an arrested NZer will simply be deported back to NZ. There is the possibility of beatings while in custody and some do not recover from those beatings.

Read here, here, here, and here and tell me I am wrong ... that all will be well and all manner of things will be well for our GS in July if it goes ahead in Fiji.

Before you write in to tell me if I am wrong, please also assess whether all will be well only if our members say the most anodyne, inoffensive, and non-confrontational words in the midst of one of the most repressive regimes in the world! Is that a price we wish to pay as a church for meeting in Fiji: the constraint of our freedom to speak plainly and prophetically to the world?


carl jacobs said...

It's highly unlikely that the Fijian Gov't would arrest a bunch of foreign nationals attending an international church meeting. It is an opportunity for that gov't to show a positive face to the world, even if that face is a mask. Arrests would simply turn a relatively minor event into a major international incident. Anyway, what benefit would these arrests purchase the regime?

No, it is far more likely that the Fijian gov't would smile, say nothing at all, and then punish after the fact those citizens who are associated with the church. The press is gone. No foreign nationals are involved. The reaction would thus occur "below the noise floor." But in Fiji, the point would be made loud and clear.

So, your last point is the critical point. Is there some purpose to this meeting that would require hanging your compatriots out to dry? If you have to speak glowing words about the host gov't to avoid having your brothers arrested and beaten and persucuted, then I wonder why the meeting should be held in such a location?


hogster said...

I think Carl's thought hits at the real and most likely danger and the one that must be considered in the name of love. It is not the visiting church that will face the dander but the church that stays.

It might be compared to the fallout from the overly enthusiastic visiting evangelist to gets up the nose of the locals.

Peter Carrell said...

Your sentiments and insights are appreciated, Carl and hogster.

I would like to point out a difference between an arrest in the middle of synod (=international incident etc, agreed) and an arrest out of synod, unseen, with no one admitting the whereabouts of the arrested person (=no international incident). In the latter case, note, no enquiries can have confidence that the military would admit to having made the arrest. There are NZers who have disappeared up there ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I think you are over-stretching the reality to say that the military rule in Fiji is one of the most repressive in the world - compared with whom, for instance, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda (against gays), Syria (against the Opposition), and Israel (against Arabs)?

However, I do get your point, that General Synod Members have to be warned against the possibility of reaction against the military. They are not likely, however, to suffer instant death for their sexual-orientation.

We are all in a very different situation from that of the New Testament times, when Christians were executed for their faith. That was real martyrdom.

carl jacobs said...

Just for the record, Arabs have full rights of citizenship in Israel, and Arabs generally try to get into Israel in an attempt to escape the corrupt gangsters who govern their lives. But it shouldn't have been necessary for me to make this post. Some subjects just shouldn't be used to grind ideological axes.


Father Ron Smith said...

Carl. Who's grinding now? Perhaps you might think about the plight of Palestinian Christians, on the land of their birth.

Paul Powers said...

This thread is a source of some wonderful marketing slogans for the Fiji Visitors Bureau: "Come to Fiji! It's not as bad as Nigeria!" or "Fiji: More Gay Friendly than Uganda!"

Father Ron Smith said...

Paul, perhaps you need to have lived in Fiji - amongst the Fijians, Indians, Pacific Islanders and other ethnic groups, as I have had the privilege of doing. Then your criticism of the people of Fiji might be a little more insightful, with a little more understanding of the unique situation that enabled Bainimarama to take charge.