The constitution establishes a secular state and protects freedom of religion, conscience, and belief. It also mandates the separation of religion and state. The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religious affiliation and inciting hatred or “disaffection” against any religious group. Religious groups must register with the government. A law on education permits noncompulsory religious instruction in schools owned and operated by various religious denominations. Church leaders reiterated their stance of political neutrality after the military cautioned Methodist Church leaders to desist from making calls for a Christian state. The trial of the senior management of a leading newspaper that published a letter to the editor that the government characterized as antagonistic towards the country’s Muslim community continued at year’s end.
In December vandals damaged a Hindu temple; a police investigation continued at year’s end. According to the daily newspaper, the Fiji Sun, a proliferation of anti-Muslim comments in December generated nationwide controversy after an Indian cleric posted on Facebook how he was celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in the country. Bahais celebrated the faith’s bicentennial in October with several interfaith gatherings across the islands.
Embassy officials held meetings with senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, in addition to Christian, Hindu, and Muslim religious leaders, with the aim of encouraging and maintaining an active interfaith dialogue. The embassy used social media to highlight the Ambassador’s actions respecting the country’s religious diversity.