Diwali Uproar

SOLDEPA MP and Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya and Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma in the spotlight after asking Hindus to practise ‘wisdom and sensitivity’ on Sunday, ‘a day of worship for major-ity of Fijians’ Ms Tabuya and the church have deleted their posts after copping massive backlash from the public
10 Nov 2020 13:00
Diwali Uproar
Lynda Tabuya

Fijians from all walks of life have condemned the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma and SODELPA Member of Parliament Lynda Tabuya for their posts on social media.

The posts advised Hindu-devotees to think about the significance of Sunday to Christians when celebrating Diwali.

Yesterday, Ms Tabuya commented on Facebook advising Diwali observers to wait until early Monday morning to light firecrackers.

In a series of comments which were deleted shortly after, Ms Tabuya maintained her position that majority of Fijians reserved Sunday as their day of worship, rest, reverence and reflection.

She said, “Sunday observance of day of worship for majority of Fiji which is usually a quiet day of rest, reverence and reflection and firecrackers will be lit on the day. Surely there’s more wisdom and sensitivity and the need to be more respectful. Monday has been allocated as the day, please do the right thing.”

However, she told Fiji Sun later that she had apologised to everyone she offended, and had deleted her comments from Facebook.

What she did not say was whether her views on the matter had changed.


Methodist Church

Hours after Ms Tabuya’s post, the Methodist Church weighed in and issued a statement making similar sentiments.

After receiving massive backlash online the Church removed its statement, two hours after posting it.

The statement which was issued by the Methodist Church Communications Officer Wilfred Regunamada said the Church hoped that leaders of the Hindu religion would liaise with Christian leaders to determine an appropriate time to light fireworks.

He stated that he hoped a national announcement would be made to all Hindu and iTaukei families to refrain from lighting fireworks until 6pm in the afternoon after church services had finished.

This is the first time in recent history that the church has asked Diwali observers not to light fireworks until Sunday evening.

And interestingly enough this is not the first year that Diwali is going to be celebrated on a Sunday.

As pointed out by a Fijian on the Methodist Church’s Facebook page, Diwali was also celebrated on a Sunday in 2016 and there were no objections raised.


Fijians Condemn

Baffled and outraged social media users labelled Ms Tabuya as selfish and ignorant while others questioned the church’s silence regarding Sunday market day events and rugby matches.

One Fijian, a practising Muslim, said: “Here is the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma asking Hindus to accommodate their religion. Here is a religious institution telling another religion and their leaders to liaise with them on when they can celebrate the MOST important day in their religious year. The one day that falls on a Sunday, not by their choice but because they follow the lunar calendar.

“You are pathetic. The church doesn’t ask to stop loud music and events in the town and cities. It doesn’t ask for nightclubs to close or pubs to close. It is asking a time limit to when Hindus should start celebrating their religious festival.

“Again Fiji. Each day you slip on the meter of pathetic. And each and every one of you who think this is OK, you help pull the country down. Shame.”

A Methodist Church member said: “Never seen you people speak up when there is a ROC Market on Sunday with bands and musicians playing. Cinemas are open, hell even bars and pubs are open throughout the day and into the night.

“Never seen you people speak up when our 7s team plays on a Sunday and people are cheering and screaming from their homes. Never seen you people post and ask the Seventh Day Adventist believers to only start playing etc after 6pm. So much hypocrisy. Either address all issues or none at all. Don’t cherry pick.”

Another Fijian commented saying Hindus celebrate Christmas in a merrier way without judgment and called on the Church to apologise to the Hindu community for raising a concern that can ignite religious disputes.

Many others echoed similar sentiments, shared the post widely while criticising the church’s comments and called for the church to apologise.

Meanwhile, president of the Shree Sanatan Dharm Pratinidhi Sabha Sarju Prasad called on all faiths to exercise love and harmony towards each other and do what is right.

“Fiji is a multiracial and multicultural nation with constitutional rights bestowed on all citizens to maintain peace, progress and prosperity for all,” Mr Prasad said.

“There should be mutual love and respect for each other’s religion especially Diwali which comes only once a year.”


Human rights body responds

Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj said: “Indeed, for those that have faced the brunt of racial and religious intolerance, this is one of the most endearing values enshrined in the Fijian Constitution precisely because Fiji has a history of racial and religious intolerance. One just has to look at the unilateral imposition of the Sunday Ban and the religious demagoguery following the 1987 coups which decimated multiculturalism.

“Once again we are seeing a surge in intolerance targeting people of various faiths.

“One such recent example was the vile debasement of Prophet Muhammad on the social media on the occasion of his birthday because some were questioning why the Fijian Government had gazetted a public holiday to mark this occasion and the most recent remarks by Opposition MP Lynda Tabuya incidentally about her disquiet over the celebration of Diwali on a Sunday.

“This is an anathema to religious and cultural tolerance in a diverse country like ours. It is only appropriate that a religious community be allowed to observe, practice and celebrate their various festivities in accordance with their respective religious calendar whether they be Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists or any other faith. Lynda Tabuya‘s irresponsible remarks has politicised a religious festival that has been celebrated for 140 years in Fiji by not just Hindus but by people of all faiths in a true display of multiculturalism and respect for diversity.”

Edited by Ranoba Baoa




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