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Sounds of Silence

Banned Methodist hymn sing indicates Fiji church-state conflict is worsening.

Fiji remained silent on a day that should have been filled with songs of praise.

The government canceled an annual Methodist choir festival scheduled for Saturday in Suva, the archipelago's capital. The decision to cancel the 160-year-old competition fueled tensions in the South Pacific nation, where the interim military-installed government has taken action against church leadership.

The Methodist Church is the largest religious group in Fiji, comprising one-third of the island's nearly one million inhabitants. An estimated 70 percent of Methodists are indigenous Fijians, according to Kerry Enright, a pastor in Australia's Uniting Church.

"We believe the Fijian government is out to cripple the Methodist church in Fiji," Enright said in an interview with Radio Australia's Pacific Beat.

Meanwhile, the government has shown support for the politically connected New Methodist Church by approving a crusade at a 20,000-seat national sports stadium for the newly created rival denomination, according ...

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