Cannibal apology group aims to make Fiji "God-fearing"

A group that recently arranged an apology for an incident of cannibalism in Fiji in the 19th century aims to identify "evil leaders" and replace them with "God-fearing" ones, its strategy papers show.

"It is not enough to leave the selection of God-fearing leaders to government as it may not have the kind of discernment and spiritual anointing needed to identify God-fearing leaders," the Association of Christian Churches of Fiji (ACCF) strategy paper says.

ACCF organised a November 13 ceremony, to lift what was said to be a curse, in which the Nabutautau village apologised to Australian descendants of Methodist missionary Thomas Baker who was killed and eaten in 1867.

Controversy followed over ACCF's role and that of the Ministry of Reconciliation which used part of its 715,000 Fiji dollars (383,000 US) annual budget for the "corporate repentance" ceremony that included flying in Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase by helicopter.

ACCF groups 20 denominations of mainly fundamentalist blend.

The mainstream Methodist Church did not approve of the apology which it said had already been carried out in 1985.

Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei opposition political party, led by former military strongman Sitiveni Rabuka, said the apology ceremony was a political exercise.

"It is about time they stop exploiting the innocence of these villagers because if the curse is not lifted then the groups involved should be ready for the backlash," party spokeswoman Ema Druavesi said.

Across the South Pacific the mainstream Methodist, Congregational and Catholic churches are losing adherents to the new religions.

In Fiji, whose motto is "Fear God and Respect the Chiefs", religion is political and racial.

Of the 840,000 people, around 44 percent are ethnic Indians, the majority of them Hindu with a Moslem minority.

Methodists make up to nearly half of the population but in the eight years since a census its membership has sharply fallen to new religious groups.

ACCF, which seeks to replace the long established National Council of Churches, grew out of the 2000 coup which saw a group of civilians, supported by special forces soldiers, overthrow the government of Mahendra Chaudhry, the countrys first ethnic Indian prime minister.

Among the first actions of ACCF were to campaign unsuccessfully to have mutiny charges dropped against soldiers later convicted for their role in the mutiny.

The organisation, which backs Prime Minister Qarase's government, says its vision is for "Fiji to be God's Treasured Possession", achieved "if the people of this country submit themselves to God and accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Master and their Savour."

It states they have to be "born again Christians", a term applying to membership of new Christian groups and excluding Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists, referring to them as "nominal Christians to Christ"

ACCF stresses the need for "God-Fearing as a pre-requisite to those who aspire to positions of leadership" and says Qarase and President Josefa Iloilo meet those criteria.