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Fiji


International Religious Freedom Report 2004
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country consists of more than 300 islands, 100 of which are inhabited; most of the population is concentrated on the main island of Viti Levu. The country's total area is approximately 6,800 square miles, and its population is 825,000. Fifty-two percent of the population is Christian, 33 percent is Hindu, and 7 percent is Muslim. The largest Christian denomination is the Methodist Church, which claims 219,000 members. Other Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church also have significant followings. The Methodist Church is supported by the majority of the country's chiefs and remains influential in the ethnic Fijian community, particularly in rural areas. There also is a small number of nondenominational Christian groups.

During the period covered by this report, some persons shifted their membership from the Methodist Church to other Christian denominations and Islam. Due to deteriorating economic circumstances, some Methodist Church members from rural areas reportedly found it difficult to contribute the tithes expected of them; others reportedly changed affiliations because they did not support the nationalist political agenda associated with the Methodist Church.

Religion runs largely along ethnic lines. Most indigenous Fijians, who constitute approximately 54 percent of the population, follow Christianity; most Indo-Fijians, who constitute approximately 40 percent of the population, practice Hinduism or Islam. However, a significant minority of Indo-Fijians are Christian. Other ethnic communities include Chinese and Europeans. Approximately 60 percent of the Chinese community practice Christianity and 40 percent practice Confucianism or some form of ancestor worship. The European community is predominantly Christian.

The Hindu faith is predominant within the Indo-Fijian community, while the Muslim (Sunni) minority makes up approximately 20 percent of the Indo-Fijian community. Both the Hindu and Muslim communities have a number of active religious and cultural organizations. The Fiji Muslim League is also pursuing actively the conversion of indigenous Fijians from Christianity to Islam and has attained some success in this initiative.

There are numerous Christian missionary organizations that are nationally and regionally active in social welfare, health, and education. Many major Christian denominations, notably the Methodist Church, have missionaries in the country; they operate numerous religious schools, including colleges, which are not subsidized by the Government.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice and does not tolerate its abuse. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in practice.

Citizens have the right, either individually or collectively, both in public and private, to manifest their religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching. There is no state religion, although elements of the Methodist Church have advocated the establishment of a Christian state. Religious groups are not required to register. The Government does not restrict foreign clergy and missionary activity or other typical activities of religious organizations.

Major observances of all three major religions are celebrated as national holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Diwali, and Mohammed's birthday. The Government partly sponsors an annual ecumenical prayer festival.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion; however, the role of religion continues to be a political issue. Some Methodist Church authorities and allied political groups continued to advocate the establishment of a Christian state, but the new leadership of the Methodist Church moderated somewhat the expression of strong nationalist sympathies endorsed by the previous leadership.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Abuses by Terrorist Organizations

There were no reported abuses targeted at specific religions by terrorist organizations during the period covered by this report.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom. In May 2003, unidentified persons burglarized a mosque in the western part of the country. The burglary was viewed as an isolated incident and widely condemned.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The Embassy has disseminated public diplomacy materials related to political and religious freedom across a wide spectrum of society. The Embassy continued to make religious freedom an important part of its effort to promote democracy and human rights. In an April speech to Sangam, an Indian cultural and religious organization, the Ambassador noted that attacks on religious symbols and buildings impoverished everyone in the country. The Ambassador's remarks received wide distribution in the media.



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