“EASTER FOR THE SATURDAY PEOPLE”

This time last year we sailed into the Easter week under a newly arrived phenomenon that amended significantly the texture of normal life for all of us, the Covid19 pandemic. Since then, our lives have been altered forever. As we draw closer to Easter, one year since the pandemic infiltrated our shores, we must thank God and be grateful. The spirit of gratitude must always precede the spirit of negation. The former Principal of the college, Rev Dr Sione ‘Amanaki Havea from Tonga, has reminded us in his theology of celebration that because the Pacific is founded on communal sharing, the idea of celebration underpins life. Every gift should be matched initially with celebration. The gift of life, community, and the Earth. To lose this gift of celebration is to lose the realization of being gifted.

Trapped!

As we sail into the Easter spirit this year, while we normally focus the faith spotlight on the death and the resurrection of our Lord as the main events, it is natural that what happened on Easter Saturday (other Christian traditions called it Bright Saturday) is dismissed. Throughout history questions have been raised: What really happened on Saturday? Was Jesus really in the tomb? Was he sleeping? Was he really dead? Whatever happened on that day, it is clear from the biblical storyline that Saturday is part of the salvation process that God intended through the life of Jesus Christ. Easter Saturday, just like Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is not just one of the three days Jesus was dead and back to life again. Rather, personally, I would prefer to think of Saturday as symbolic of God’s time to expose our fragility and vulnerability. A time to remind us that God’s willingness, through Jesus, to be in the tomb is a divine resolve to be in deep solidarity with those still trapped in dark depressing tombs ? whom S.J. Samartha named in his poem “Saturday people”.

 

Squeezed between Good Friday and Easter

Ignored by preachers and painters and poets

Saturday lies cold and dark and silent

An unbearable pause between death and life

There are many Saturday people

To whom Easter does not come

There are no angels to roll the stones away

 

In the pre and post-Covid19 era, some people have moved on, resurrected from the torture and agonies imposed by uncontrollable forces such as pandemics and climate change. Some are still struggling, still carrying an unbearable cross in a never ending road to find one thing: Release! However some are still trapped in dark tombs, unable to see the dawn of the resurrection day, immersed in an unbearable pause between death and life, the now and the beyond, the here and the not yet, with no angels to assist to move them out of the tomb. Like some Israelites and prophets in the wilderness, they never get the chance to move into the promised-land. They dreamt of milk and honey but never tasted it.

Reimagine!

Most Saturday people are not strangers to us. These are the people who are unable to press further, trapped in depressing tombs endorsed by rapacious systems designed to unroll tomb stones and eliminate hope for life in the beyond. There are children who never grow old because they die from the malnutrition and the scarcity of food and water due to unjust economic systems in many countries. In the midst of wars and crises refugees sail on crowded, poorly equipped dinghies ? never arriving on dry land to find the peaceful, normal place where they hope to raise their children. Climate displaced communities never have the chance to heal from climate induced disasters. Vulnerable women, men, and children never see another day, due to constant beating and to extreme family violence that is also systemic. Adults never see the success of their children because they suffer from non-communicable diseases due, not just to individual choices, but more to the breakdown of the national health and socio-economic system. Detainees and immigrants never see a courtroom to fight for justice as they seek a home away from their troubled and war torn homes. Students fail before even trying, never see their full potentiality because their cultural and distinctive worldviews are normally denied by the established education system. Covid19 victims never see their loved ones for the last time before they die, abandoned by a failed health system. Many indigenous peoples are pushed not just to a margin, but to a margin of margins by rich corporations who flourish by turning lands and oceans into crucified ecologies. Economic systems, assisted by political complicities, are designed to make people accept without question the modern human-made tombs such as poverty, slavery, and secularism, to name a few. These are Saturday people that require our attention as we move into the Holy Week.

Resituate!

This Easter, one year after the start of the Covid19 pandemic, we are invited to resituate and realign our mission strategies to target those who die outside the promised-land. Those who continue to carry crosses built by empires, trapped in crucified bodies. Who remain in depressing tombs not because they want to but because they’re forced to.

But in order to do this, the church needs to redeem itself first from the traditional priestly plinth that normally situates priesthood and Christianity as a heavenly elitist society. The church needs to resituate its story within the radical justice-oriented earthly mission of Jesus on behalf of the Saturday people: the poor, the orphan, the outcast, the marginalized. A church that disturbs and unsettles rapacious systems that are Babylonian in nature ? in order to set free the vulnerable bodies of women, sick people, marginalized communities, and tyrannized ecologies; that assists in “opening up graves” in order to “bring out the dead” who have been turned by war hawks into “dry bones” (Ezekiel 37:10-12), giving them fresh breath, growing sinews, flesh, and skin. Saturday people are normally those who never reach resurrection, who suffer and die with Jesus “outside the city gates” (Hebrew 13:13). We need a church that dares to upend the curse of these depressing tombs to invite the light of the hope of the resurrection to these people.

Resurrection should not be just a bygone phenomenon that vaguely affects our lives, that finds its cadence only in worship liturgies nor should be about a supernatural otherworldly escape. Rather it should be about being in the worldto make a difference. As Anthony Kelly reminds us, “the effect of the resurrection is to see the world and to live in it otherwise”. In Luke’s gospel, after the resurrection, Jesus hit the road again, ate and broke bread with disciples. In John’s gospel, Jesus went back to cooking fish and feeding people on the beach. The “resurrection effect” starts with fresh empowerment to go back to deal with real stuffs, real people, real issues, and the real world. It draws its mana and strength from the resolve to enter the darkest experiences of victims for the sake of liberation. For God to be in the tomb changes the whole meaning of following the resurrected Christ. It involves empowerment to be part of the real struggle of real people to help dismantle the systems that prevent them from realizing the promise of an empty tomb.  

Let us remember the many victims of Covid19 during this Holy Week. May this post-covid19 Easter set a new tone of response to the crucified Saturday people, and a resurrection-filled cadence to those still trapped in dark depressing tombs! Manuia le Eseta!

 

Rev. Professor Dr. Upolu Luma Vaai

Pacific Theological College

29 March, 2021

Hundreds of Fijians living at the Jittu Estate informal settlement in Suva received help in the form of bales of clothes and food on October 20.

The donation from the Pacific Theological College is part of its aim of addressing social injustices like poverty in its curriculum.

It aligns with the PTC Strategic Plan 2020-2025 of ‘Towards Excellence in Theological Education for Leadership for Justice.’

It is a plan to provide for Pacific churches and the region, leaders who are not only priests and theologians, but also prophets and advocators of justice.

Jittu Estate Welfare Officer Sitiveni Ravatu applauded the donation as tremendous. “We have families who don’t have food to eat right now,” said Mr Ravatu.

PTC Community also gave the Vunilagi Book Club (VBC) boxes of children’s books. VBC is based out of the Vatuwaqa informal settlement.

The Club works with informal communities in Suva to improve children’s reading skills. Club director Mariana Waqa said reading impacts a child’s development. It stimulates their imagination and develops communication and social skill essential for life.

PTC set up a Committee to coordinate the donation drive over several weeks.

PTC identifies poverty as a social and economic injustice that causes widespread suffering.

In offering a helping hand, the PTC community hopes to give hope and build solidarity with those who struggle to make ends meet.

The donation also marked International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

At least a quarter of Pacific Islanders suffer every day in poverty-stricken situations.

In 2019, the United Nations High-Level Political Forum heard, a quarter of Pacific Islanders live below basic needs poverty lines. They struggle to make ends meet. Unemployment among women and youth is exceptionally high, and so are non-communicable diseases.
For example, in Fiji, 200,000 people live in poverty at 200 squatter settlements.

PTC identifies poverty as a social and economic injustice that causes widespread suffering.

In offering a helping hand, the PTC community hopes to give hope and build solidarity with those who struggle to make ends meet.

Ends…

 

 

 

 

 

There is a need for an ‘Umbilical Church’ that reconnects life to Mother Earth.

This was the message for ‘Seasons for Creation Communion Service’ led by PTC Principal Rev. Professor Dr Upolu Va’ai.

Seasons for Creation is celebrated every year. It is time to thank the Lord for all our natural blessing like the soil from which our food grows.

In the Pacific Islands, life is intimate with nature. This intimacy can be seen in the way various elements of nature like plant and fish feature in Pacific traditions and customs. For many Pacific communities, life is utterly dependent on nature.

Soil, root crops, and other traditional iconic crafts were prayed over at the thanksgiving service held at the Islander Missionaries Memorial Chapel on September 11.

Principal Rev. Professor. Dr Upolu Vaai delivered the sermon titled ‘The Umbilical Consciousness’ emphasizing the importance of Sabbatical biblical principles in Leviticus 25 that allow the Earth to rest and breathe and a Jubilee economic framework that prioritizes liberation and redemption.

These principles he said have already been part of Pacific economies such as Tabu in Fiji, Kogatapu in Tuvalu, Fakataputapui in Tonga, and Faasao in Samoa for example that allow time for recuperation and restoration for the Earth.

These indigenous ways need to be included in any economic development framework for the Pacific.

The Umbilical Church has an umbilical mission to disconnect its communities from ‘economies of death’. This economy serves only the interests of the rich and elite by extracting and harvesting all year round without rest.

 

The Umbilical Church should reconnect communities and societies with economies that respect the dignity of life for all, including the Earth.

Members of various Christian denominations in Suva, Fiji attended the service.

 

Ends…

Applications are invited for the following position:

Co-ordinator of Centre for Women’s Development Programme

The Pacific Theological College (PTC) is a regional ecumenical tertiary institution that serves the region through the churches of the Pacific. We invite applications for the position of Coordinator of the Women’s Development Programme (WDP) with the aim to equip women of the different ministries to meet the daily challenges in their respective churches, home and communities.

The person appointed shall be an educator and committed to the theological education and advocacy for the dignity of women; is ecumenical, both in relation to the diverse Christian traditions and faiths; a leader with ability to lead and to achieve the ‘leadership for justice’ vision of the college; a team player and able to work with a diverse multi-cultural community, and is responsible for the sustainability of the Centre.

The person shall be required to coordinate and administer the Women’s Programme with focus on planning and preparing curriculum, courses, teaching and coordinating, developing unique and distinctive courses and programmes, especially ground-up programmes with alternative development strategies for marginalized communities; planning and preparing budget with funding partners on behalf of the programme; writing grant proposals and request funding for the center;  management and accountability of the finance of the department; creative and innovative marketing to attract interested partners such as churches, government, NGOs, businesses, to invest on PTC through the Women’s programme; community networking and relationship building regionally. 

The person must be familiar with educational and church contexts across the Pacific and the world; Ability to teach and supervise students of whom English is not their first language and work reliably and respectfully with a team within an ecumenical institution. Willingness to work in a team and to dialogue with persons of different cultural and religious background. Propose and facilitate seminars/workshops that empower women and developing published materials to assist women both at PTC and in the local communities to liberate women from cultures and traditions that suppress their God-given rights. Ability to work to advocate for justice for the dignity of women and their responsibilities in church and society. Participating in committee work and any other appropriate duties assigned by the Principal of the college and/or the College Executive Committee. Ability and willingness to participate in extra-curricular activities and other community activities of the college. 

Qualifications and Requirements:

At least a Bachelor degree with at least 5 years of experience of teaching and mentoring women and working with women organisations who are committed to grassroots communities. Also a 5 years of administrative and management experience is required. A good understanding of financial management with the ability to write convincing and realistic Grant proposals for the Centre.

Renumeration:

Salary will depend on expertise and experience in consultation with the PTC Council &
Executive approved annual salary scale. 

Deadline and Starting Date:

Closing Date for all Applications is Friday 4th September, 2020. The person appointed is expected to take up duties in January 2021.

Applicants are asked to submit their current CV along with a supporting letter of motivation of no more than two pages, with references from at least two referees with their contacts. Applications can be submitted electronically to the Human Resources Manager by email to: vijay.kumar@ptc.ac.fj. Alternatively, hand delivered to PTC reception desk or send via postal mail to the address: Human Resources Manager, Pacific Theological College, Private Mail Bag, Suva. 

…………………………

Staff

Each Staff is given an account and will apply for network access, which will enable them access to the office computer, email, internet, library catalog, network shares, and printer.

Student

Each Student is given an account to access student systems, such as the computer lab facility, printing, internet, webmail, library catalog, and Wi-Fi.

Pacific Theological College (PTC) successfully hosted the inaugural G20 Interfaith Summit: Pacific Regional Preconference from 2-4 May, 2016. The summit started on Monday 2nd with a welcome ceremony and dinner hosted by PTC and progressed on to Tuesday 3rd at the Jovili Meo Mission Centre for the actual summit. Deliberations focused on the four selected United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 8 (Economic Growth), SDG 13 (Climate Action), and SDG 16 (Peace and Justice). The aim was to affirm the importance of religious and spiritual dimensions with a specific Pacific focus in addressing sustainable development in the region. The summit attracted many faith leaders, faith communities, government officials, NGOs and civil societies, and academics from Fiji, Samoa, Australia, Aotearoa NZ, Kiribati, Nauru, Rotuma, and Tonga. It successfully concluded with a bold statement with recommendations from the Pacific to the G20 Interfaith Summit in China in September and to the G20 Nations as well as all members of the United Nations.

On behalf of the organizers Dr. Brian Adams and Prof. Paul Morris, I would like to acknowledge the tremendous support of the Principal, Rev. Prof. Feleterika Nokise and the PTC community in hosting this summit. Vinaka Vakalevu!

Upolu Luma Vaai

Conference Statement: G20 Interfaith Summit Pacific Regional Preconference

 

G20 Fiji 2016
G20 Participants

 

Work on new website design started in 2012. This will make maintenance and flexibility of design more manageable. We plan to ‘go live’ with this new design in early 2013.