Bible and ‘Vanua’

In its 9th year running, the innovative, Pasifika theological thinkers of the Oceania Biblical Association met in Suva, Fiji for their 2019 seminar on the topic ‘Bible and Vanua.’

The seminar, hosted by the Methodist Church of Fiji’s Davuilevu Theological College was held at the Jovili Meo Mission Centre Conference Room of the Pacific Theological College.

‘So we used the Fijian term ‘Vanua’ to expand the meaning of land because the biblical understanding of land from the Western context is limited,’ explained Rev. Dr. Nasili Vaka’uta from the Trinity Methodist Theological College.

‘The word ‘Vanua’ or fenua or whenua is a concept that epitomizes our very being, who we are, it symbolizes the way we do things and makes it rooted to where we are in the Pacific,’ Dr Vaka’uta added.

‘This time we decided to focus on talking about ‘Vanua´ as portrayed in the Bible alongside the iTaukei Fijian understanding of ‘Vanua’ and also bringing into the mix the various understanding of land and nature from Samoa, Tonga and so forth.’

The seminar heard various perspectives like ‘The Wisdom of the Vanua and Yalomatua’ by Reverend Tomasi Tarabe of the Methodist Church of Fiji, ‘The Earth came to the help of the woman’ by Vaitusi Nofoaiga, ‘Eco-theological appreciation of fenua with the Maohi conception of opu: a fenua epistemology’ by Marc Teihotua Pohue.

Brian Kolia of Samoa shared ‘Qoheleth and the Land: A Samoan reading of ‘Toiling’ in Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 and the ‘Call of Moana: Oceanic View of Methodist Mission.’

‘The seminar brings people from across the region to rethink the way we read the bible and takes into account our own contexts, cultures and try to establish this with our own students in various theological colleges. Something that they can relate to rather than just promoting western theologies and hermeneutics,’ said Reverend Vaka’uta.

The Association was formed nine years ago.

‘We basically open up in a space. In this gathering our denominations don’t matter, it’s all about being Pacific and Oceanic,’ he added.

The Association will next meet in Piula, Samoa.