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Religion And The Vanua

Religion And The Vanua
Lemeki Tuikubulau receives the sacramental ashes during an Ash Wednesday celebration at the Sacred Heart Cathedral yesterday.Photo:Vilimoni Vaganalau.
July 08
11:33 2017

Can the culture of the vanua and religion co-exist peacefully or harmoniously in the context of the new Village By-laws?

When the by-laws are finally implemented, they will dictate activities in the village.

One interpretation is that religions would have to abide by the rules. Some churches have sought clarification because religious freedom and beliefs are enshrined in the Constitution.

Some religions ban drinking of kava, alcohol and certain cultural, traditional and customary practices because they are contrary to their religious beliefs.

In some villages a number of religions exist side by side.

The way they worship and conduct their affairs and activities may be different. For example the Seventh Day Adventists observe their Sabbath on Saturday. The rest of the Christian churches observe their Sabbath on Sunday. Will that be affected by new by-laws.

If the village by-laws dictate that once a month everyone should join a combined church service, do people have the freedom to choose whether to attend or not? Should the vanua directives, policies and activities take precedence over other engagements?

Unless these issues are ironed out the potential for misunderstanding and conflicts remain. So far in many villages, there seems to be a good working relationship between the churches and the vanua. Maybe that’s the model or formula they can continue with.

The fact that some churches are raising issues for clarification indicate there is an element of worry over how the new by-laws will be adopted.

Some studies say culture (in this case the vanua) and religion should  be separate and should operate independently. However, there are times for consultation to achieve a common objective.

In some ways, religion is a form of culture in itself. Staunch supporters of a particular belief model their lifestyles on the principles and values of that belief.

Although they live in the village, they do not necessarily observe or follow certain cultural or customary practices because they contradict their belief.

In some villages the dominant church has blended into the local culture that it is difficult to separate them. The relationship may be very close but they are not the same.

Some see religion as the soul of culture.

This view misses a point that that there could also be non-religious cultures. In every culture, religious and non-religious, there is some kind of belief-system involved.

The belief systems may be poles apart. This strengthens the argument that, perhaps, we can keep culture and religion totally separate.

However, the cultural elements must not be confused with the religious elements. This means people having differing beliefs can still follow one culture and only disagree with regard to religious elements or belief-related elements.

Culture may prop up science and reason but religion will go for beliefs and faith.

Entertainment (culture) will be opposite to worship (religion). Other matchups (culture first): Sin vs taboo; Progress/development vs salvation; Arts vs Morals; Relatives vs Absolutes; Lifestyles vs Life values; Worldliness (Secularity) vs Spirituality.

The clash between the physical and the spirit is the fundamental difference between culture and religion.

No matter, how much we try to mix them together, it will always have complications and grey areas, because it’s always been like that since the beginning of time.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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