No Church Silence on Violence

A founding member of the Pacific Theological College says there will be no silence on violence in the face of growing statistics of violence against women and children in the Pacific Islands region.

Methodist Church of Fiji President Rev. Dr. Epineri Vakadewavosa gave this assurance at a meeting with the World Council of Church committee that visited Fiji in January this year.

Rev.Dr.Epineri Vakadewavosa addressing the World Council of Churches meeting.

The WCC delegation was divided into four Pilgrim Teams looking at various issues including Gender Justice. 

The visits were coordinated by the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) that observed that rates of violence are high in the region and for most countries it is higher than the global average of 35 percent.

Members of a pilgrim team visit to Vatuwaqa’a Wailea Settlement in Suva.

In an information brief for Pilgrim Team 3 whose focus was ‘Gender Justice, People with Disabilities, Interfaith Dialogue, the PCC stated that for too long, and more often than not, faith communities have been part of the structural violence enacted upon women of all age and social status in the Pacific.

‘Patriarchal structures of leadership and decision-making, biblical interpretation and attitudes towards women in faith communities have underpinned the psychological, emotional, physical, sexual and economic violence that Pacific women have had to endure,’ stated the PCC document.

‘We acknowledge the complicit and implicit actions and inaction by those in positions of authority and responsibility, and the abuses of power and trust experienced by women and children in our Pacific churches, that there are places where the gospel of love, inclusion, preference for the least among us in society and of peace and abundant life for all is preached and held out as the ideal but not practice,’ the brief further highlighted.

‘At the same time, we acknowledge with gratitude the many mothers and fathers who have had the courage to address these and other forms of gender-based violence experienced in homes, churches and church institutions for more than two decades, in their local churches, national churches and in the Pacific Conference of Churches membership, and those sisters and brothers working to continue and strengthen this work.’

‘This is part of a global move by Christian communities to address all forms of abuse of power and trust,’ the brief stated.

Rev. Dr. Vakadewavosa assured the WCC committee that the Methodist church is addressing gender violence in various ways.

It has partnered with Uniting World Australia to run a programme on gender theology.

It will also appoint a special chaplain and a gender-based violence project officer as well as encourage its Ministers to address the issue from the pulpit. 

The PCC says there is a growing shift by its members churches from conservative, colonial and fundamentalist, patriarchal theology to one based on more inclusive, contextual biblical interpretation and strong Christian theological and ethical reflection that violence against women in all its forms is a sin.

PCC General Secretary Rev. James Bhagwan (extreme right) with members of the WCC at the Nadera Methodist Church


Rates of Violence Against Women and Girls 

Tonga – 79%

Samoa – 76%

Kiribati – 73%

Fiji – 72%

Vanuatu – 72%

Solomon Islands – 64%