PM: Religion can unify

‘…recognising all religions an exceptional practice in country’ By JYOTI PRATIBHA Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says religion can be a unifying ground for Fiji’s diverse religious groups. Speaking at
14 Jan 2014 09:17

‘…recognising all religions an exceptional practice in country’


Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says religion can be a unifying ground for Fiji’s diverse religious groups.
Speaking at the celebrations to mark Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday at Nadi’s Prince Charles Park he praised how Fijians acknowledge each other’s faith, festival and special days and said: “Fiji is one of only a handful of countries in the world that does this, and we do so proudly. It underlines the unique nature of Fiji in our own region – a multi-faith nation with a new Constitution that guarantees religious freedom and establishes a secular state, in which all religions are equal.”
Commodore Bainimarama was joined by the Tui Nadi, Ratu Sailosi Dawai, and the acting Commissioner of Police, Ravi Narayan.
People from other faiths also joined the celebration.
Commodore Bainimarama said: “It’s all part of the wonderful tradition we’ve developed of acknowledging each other’s religious festivals.”
“We also do it as a personal gesture of respect for our fellow citizens of other faiths, knowing that whatever beliefs we hold, we are one people, one nation, and have a common destiny.”
He said: “Fiji is unique in that here we have dedicated public holidays for Diwali, Christmas and also to commemorate the birth of Prophet Muhammad.”
He assured Muslims that their religious freedom, like those of other religious groups in Fiji, would be protected by him and his Government.
Commodore Bainimarama said recognising all religions was an exceptional practice in the country.
The Government, he said, must be pragmatic, but it must also uphold principles, stand for fairness, and stay true to the values of its people.

Religion and State
“Fijians are a religious people, and our government must depend on people of all faiths to be our moral compass —not to impose their religious practices through law but to ensure that government’s actions respect the guiding principles of all faiths.
“Many Fijians have come to realise that religion can actually be a unifying force, a bridge between us all no matter what we believe.”
He said that a sense of spirituality – a belief in something greater than ourselves – is common to the overwhelming majority of Fijians, no matter what their religious background.

Common ground
“We can find common ground with each other precisely by understanding and respecting that principle, because the wonderful thing is that the teachings of our many religions are interconnected,” the Prime Minister said.
“They embody many of the same values -of consideration for others, especially the less fortunate; of honesty and integrity in the way we live our lives and of duty and service to each other, our nation and the higher being we worship.”
He also highlighted many similarities in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ.
“If you examine the teachings of Muhammad and Jesus, there are many striking similarities between their messages about the way we should all live our lives and relate to our fellow human beings.
“These include not killing someone unlawfully, not bearing false witness against others and being dutiful and kind to our parents and families.
“Prophet Muhammad urges us to look after our neighbours, to be generous, to look after our guests and to give our children a good education.
“All these are values to which every Fijian subscribes, whatever their particular religious belief.”

Equal citizens
He said this was a fundamental principle in Islam that had relevance to us all as we work to build a new and better Fiji, with a common and equal citizenship and with justice and opportunity for all.
“In Islam, everyone is equal, whatever their ethnicity, language or nationality. No one has more privileges, no one a higher status based on birth or wealth.”
Commodore Bainimarama said faith played a special role in the life of all Fijians.
“Today, we reaffirm the responsibility we have to each other as Fijians. We reflect on the values and principles that we all share and we re-dedicate ourselves to our common goal of creating a prosperous and caring nation for all.
“People of faith have an important role to play in the ordering and conduct of our society and government, as individuals and congregations.
“They give voice to principles and ensure that ethics and morality are a part of our political dialogue. This is essential for any society, but especially for a democratic one.
“On behalf of every Fijian, I want to pay tribute to the Muslim community in Fiji for its contribution to our national life.”
Some 1.6 billion Muslims celebrate this special day around the world.

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama (third from left), was the chief guest at Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday celebrations held yesterday at Prince Charles Park, Nadi. The celebration were hosted by the Fiji Muslim League. Also pictured are (from left) Fiji Muslim League vice-president Nisar Ali Shah, president Hafiz Ud Dean Khan, and guest speaker Haji Mohammed Aslam Khan. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

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