A new school of Pacific philosophy at the Pacific Theological College will teach indigenous philosophical foundations, worldviews and ways of being.
These philosophies manifest a close kinship with the natural world and promote wellbeing and wholeness of life.
Coordinating the school’s formation is the Director of the Institute for Mission and Research Aisake Casimira and his team.
‘The School of Philosophy comes at the right time when people question their existence, purpose and what they want in life,’ said Mr Casimira.
‘COVID19, climate change, the killing spree of non-communicable diseases, destruction of the environment on a massive scale have exposed the defects of our development models.’
The neo-liberal model of development is adopted widely across the Pacific islands. Its western philosophical foundations define a good life as having more money and possessions. This is in sharp contrast to the Pacific indigenous concepts of wellbeing and wholeness of life that is rooted in a principle of stewardship and care through having just enough for one’s survival.
‘So, the world is looking at indigenous communities around the world and considering what makes them resilient and sustained though millennials of existence,’ said Mr Casimira.
The seeds for the formation of the school were sown in 2018 when the Pacific Conference of Churches General Assembly adopted Household of God as the new definition for the word ‘ecumenism’.
Ecumenism was formerly defined ‘Unity of the Body of Christ’ or churches working together.
The new definition included all of creation; land, water, air as integral members of the household. It acknowledged spirituality beyond theology: indigenous spirituality.
‘Part of the presentation by the Pacific Church Leaders Meeting of the PCC 2018 GA included the transition of the Pacific churches into a Pacific Ecumenical Community (PEC),’ said Mr Casimira.
‘The household idea is sort of manifested in the ‘Community’ aspect of the name PEC,’ he added.
‘For the churches to properly understand the definition of ‘household’, they need to be aware of what are the things that identity them.
‘Not only as churches but as cultures and traditions, not only in term of theology by also philosophy.’
One such indigenous view belongs to the people of Navunikabi in Namosi province in Fiji. When the leaves of a ‘wi’ or ambarella tree (spondias dulcis) turns yellow, it tells the people the river is cold. It’s not safe to swim or bathe in the river early in the morning or late in the evenings.
Nature communicating with people about changes in the seasons provides wisdom for farming for instance.
‘So, they know the types of crops that needs to be planted at a point in time,’ said Mr Casimira.
‘It promotes harmony with nature and resilience.’
Such intimate communications are founded on respect for nature and give meaning, life and identity to many Pacific island communities.
‘The ocean is a mother, is nurturing and life giving and not just a body of water with marketing opportunities,’ Mr Casimira added.
At a meeting in Deuba recently, the team from PTC met with leading educationists from the region to discuss the possible structure of the school.
Some of the key findings from this meeting emphasise the following;
- The school needs to be community oriented – to function in partnership with the community and villages
- The pedagogy (method of teaching) should be student centred learning with teachers as mentors
- The School’s curriculum must be developed in conjunction with consultations and will need to address things like accrediting master navigators, master farmers etc
- The school will be community centred and therefore a knowledge repository of the community
Mr Casimira added the school will bring back what current education systems have lost.
‘We’ve taken away almost everything from schools, religion, culture, moral values and instead produce for the market technical beings with little moral compass or foundations that come with religious, indigenous knowledge and teachings,’ he said.