The CWM Training in Mission (TIM) participants arrived in Fiji from Taiwan on 1 July 2016 to continue their mission training.
Fiji, is a small Pacific island country famed for being a tourist destination. Like the other nearby island states, Fiji is facing pressing issues of economic injustice and climate change brought upon them by globalisation. The TIM participants experienced and to relate to their own context as they continue with their mission formation.
Prof M. P. Joseph, a biblical scholar at Chang Jung Christian University served as the mentor and facilitator to the participants while they were in Taiwan. He is known for his involvement in surrounding villages as a social activist. His work interfaces social activism and theological discourse. His interaction with students provided a platform to discuss the understanding of the theological and biblical foundation of mission, its challenges and issues. Among the mission issues considered was mission in the context of economic and political realities of the present time. Through a participatory methodology, the participants researched various issues like climate change, globalization, crisis of agriculture, migration and labor and presented them for peer critique and interaction.
In August, Rev Philip Peacock, a professor of Bishop’s College led participants through sessions on ‘Discerning the Signs of the Times’, whose aim is to discern the movement of the Spirit for missional engagement. Through the sessions, the participants were able to better understand the Fijian context as the locus for theological reflection, critically engaging with social constructs such as gender, caste and class; and also notions of religious violence and Empire. The participants were able to re-read of the Bible with a new lens that prioritises the flourishing of life within death-dealing contexts of life.
From 1 to 3 September, TIM students participated in a climate change workshop organized for CWM by the Pacific Conference of Churches and other representatives of Pacific churches. The workshop focused on the biblical understanding of climate justice and the role of the Pacific church. This served as an introduction to the subsequent phase of TIM that will take participants to Kiribati.
Consistent with TIM’s pedagogical approach of action-reflection model of learning, the participants visited different areas that would enable them to be exposed to the day-to-day realities in Fijian context.
For one week in August, the TIM participants lived with People’s Community Network (PCN), a partner entity. PCN is a community-based organisation for people living in informal settlements. It aims to empower communities to identify their own problems, decide on a plan of action and tackle the problems accordingly.
Living with host families in informal settlements, in Suva, exposed participants to the reality for poverty and economic injustice in Fiji. Issues such as unemployment, health issues, inter-generational poverty, and powerlessness that the people experience were brought closer to the participants.
A day trip to Navuso, exposed participants to economic justice issues in Fiji. At Navuso Agricultural Technical Institute, local students study organic farming and marketing to earn a living. At a local shoe company, they met employees who work nine (9) hours a day for USD 9 per day (FJD20), an amount that is not enough to sustain a family.
Bauis is a small island in Fiji, off the east coast of the main island of Viti Levu. TIM participants stayed with host families. In that set up they were able to observe and experience firsthand the customs and traditions of the Fijian people by participating in daily family life activities.
Throughout the week, participants had devotions and interacted with fellow youth on the island. The fellowship enhanced interconnectedness of youth issues despite their different places of origin. Alois Mleya Magigwana, a participant from Zimbabwe observed that in Fiji, vanua (land) comes first, then tribe, clan, sub-clan and family unit made up of individuals, a social structure that is similar to some pre-capitalist traditional African societies.
The flourishing is a priority in Fijian society which allows for its fair distribution.
Fiji is a country with many religions. Christianity has many followers and Hinduism has the second highest following. The community has organisations that bring all religions together for action on common issues that affect Fiji and other pacific islands. TIM participants visited Hindu and Sikh temples to learn about the inter-faith dimension of mission on the island.
The participants’ journey of learning about Mission in the context of Empire continues:
Feziwe Patson Comfort Nthali from South Africa notes her learning about how the poor are affected by the rich and the need to challenge an unjust economic system that is based on global looting of poor countries’ natural resources and labour.
Roy Candio McGregor from Jamaica asks, ‘With this, where is God today?’ First, we have to locate God in our context today, not two thousand years ago. Knowing our context would lead us to the Bible which guides us on how we should do mission.’