OCEANIA/FIJI ISLANDS - The Archbishop of Suva: "We do not want a Christian state but full respect of religious freedom"

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Suva ( Agenzia Fides) - "We do not want a theocracy, we never said we wanted a Christian state. However, we are concerned about whether a secularist state wants to reduce faith to a purely individualistic matter": is the clarification of the Archbishop of Suva, Mgr. Peter Loy Chong who intervened in the ongoing debate in the country on the Constitutional Charter, adopted by Fiji in September 2013, and on the issue of religious freedom. In a note sent to Fides, the Archbishop explains that the vision of the Church is "a secular state that is respectful of religious beliefs present in society": the Church hopes that this concept is derived from the interpretation of the Constitution, which guarantees the framework of social and civic life.
The ongoing debate among intellectuals, religious leaders and politicians in particular refers to section 22 of the Charter. The section clearly states that every person "has the right to freedom of religion, conscience and belief". It also states that every citizen has the right, individually or in community, in private or in public, to manifest and practice his own religion or belief through worship and teaching of faith.
The text also states that "religious freedom is a principle founding of the state" and that "religious faith is personal". On this point the debate that began in Fiji touches the separation between state and religion. Observers underline that those who hold public office should treat all religions equally, that the state should not dictate in matters of religion, and that civil and political leaders should not have preferences or discrimination in favor of or against a particular religion.
Mgr. Chong also explained, according to the canons of Christian social Doctrine that "priests and bishops are not allowed to take active part in politics", but the Church has a prophetic role to carry out, indicating principles and guidelines "to help its members and all people of good will to make decisions for the common good". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 11/12/2013)