Some of Fiji's churches have cautiously distanced themselves from the bid to overthrow the elected government which has brought chaos to the capital, Fiji, and focussed international attention on the ethnic divisions in this Pacific nation.On Friday, May 19, armed soldiers in civilian clothing led by Fijian businessman George Speight, took the prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and other politicians hostage at Fiji's parliament in Suva, the capital.Chaudhry is Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, and Speight said he was acting in the name of indigenous Fijians against a government dominated by ethnic Indians. (About 50 percent of Fiji's 800,000 citizens are ethnic Fijians, 45 percent are of Indian origin, and 5 percent are of other origin, including European and Chinese. About 52 percent of the population are Christian, 38 percent Hindu and 7.8 percent Muslim.)On May 22 leaders of the Methodist Church (MC)—by far the biggest church in Fiji, representing about 70 percent of ethnic Fijians—publicly disassociated itself from the coup attempt. The church's president, Tomasi Kanailagi, called on members "to pray for the nation and refrain from illegal activities, which are against what Christianity stood for."While he implied that the church did not support the taking of hostages, he said that the MC did not "want to meddle in the politics of it."Other churches, such as the Assemblies of God (more than 30,000 members), also called for prayer. The Anglican Bishop of Polynesia, Jabez Bryce, whose church has about 8,000 members in Fiji, and the biggest number of Indo-Fijian (ethnic Indian) Christians, went a step further, stating that "in our democratic society there are legitimate ways to express disapproval. Those avenues ...1
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