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Fiji


International Religious Freedom Report 2006
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected 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 religious groups 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 three hundred islands, approximately 110 of which were inhabited; most of the population is concentrated on the main island of Viti Levu. The country has an area of 6,800 miles, and a population of 840,000. Estimates of religious affiliation were as follows: 58 percent of the population was Christian, 30 percent Hindu, and 7 percent Muslim. The largest Christian denomination was the Methodist Church, which claimed approximately 218,000 members. Other Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church also had significant followings. The Methodist Church was supported by the majority of the country's chiefs and remained influential in the ethnic Fijian community, particularly in rural areas. There also were a small number of active nondenominational Christian groups.

Religion ran largely along ethnic lines. Most indigenous Fijians, who constituted approximately 54 percent of the population, were Christian. Most Indo-Fijians, who accounted for an estimated 38 percent, practiced Hinduism, while approximately 20 percent of this community followed Islam. In addition an estimated 6 percent of Indo-Fijians were Christian. Other ethnic communities include Chinese, Rotumans, Europeans, and other Pacific Islanders. Approximately 60 percent of the Chinese community practiced Christianity, and approximately 4 percent adhered to Confucianism. The European community was predominantly Christian.

Hindu and Muslim communities maintained a number of active religious and cultural organizations.

Numerous Christian missionary organizations were nationally and regionally active in social welfare, health, and education. Many major Christian denominations, most notably the Methodist Church, had missionaries in the country. The missionaries operated numerous religious schools, including colleges, 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 respected this right in practice. The Government at all levels sought to protect this right in full and did not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

Citizens have the right, either individually or collectively, both in public and private, to manifest their religion or beliefs in worship, observance, practice, or teaching. There is no state religion. Religious groups are not required to register. The Government did not restrict foreign clergy, domestic or foreign missionary activity, or other activities of religious organizations.

Citizens celebrated major observances of the three predominant religions as national holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Diwali, and the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Government partly sponsored 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 continued to be a political issue. Some Methodist Church authorities and allied political groups continued to advocate for the establishment of a Christian state, but the new leadership of the Methodist Church somewhat moderated the expression of strong nationalist sympathies endorsed by the previous leadership.

In December 2005 the Government refused entry to the leader of the Unification Church, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, following opposition expressed by religious organizations including the Fiji Council of Churches, an umbrella organization of nine mainstream Christian denominations, and others. A Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration spokesperson said Moon's doctrines were "misleading, repugnant, and divisive and would affect the peace, good order, public safety, and public morality of the Fiji Islands." The refusal to permit Moon's entry contrasted with the Government's welcoming attitude during the same period toward an American televangelist, over the protests of some religious denominations.

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.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

The generally amicable relationship among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom. However, in 2005 incidents of sacrilege increased for the third year in a row. Of the fifty incidents reported, most (72 percent) consisted of unidentified persons robbing and desecrating Hindu temples. There were ten acts of desecration of churches and four of mosques. Police surmised that these attacks had more to do with theft than with religious intolerance. Several Hindu members of Parliament alleged that the increasing attacks on Hindu temples were examples of a lack of societal respect for the Hindu religion. They called on law enforcement authorities to take more stringent action to prevent attacks and to identify and punish perpetrators.

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 disseminated 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.



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