On March 16, the Pacific Theological College launched its 55th Anniversary celebrations that is to be marked with various events throughout the year.

Happy Birthday PTC! (Left) Deputy Chair of the PTC Executive and Council and President of the Methodist Church of Fiji Rev. Dr. Epineri Vakadewavosa cuts the 55th birthday cake with PTC Principal Rev. Professor Dr. Upolu Va’ai.

Attended by various dignitaries, renowned academics, chiefs, heads of churches and the PTC Community of students and families, the launch ceremony held at the Jovili Meo Mission Centre marked the beginning of the celebration. It’s been a 55-year journey of producing theology students who have gone on to become leaders of influence across the region.

One of these leaders, the Rt Reverend Dr Winston Halapua Archbishop Emeritus was chief guest at the launch event.

Dr Halapua is one of the first students to study at PTC when it opened its academic sessions in 1966. 

‘I would like to say my formation was here. Here I was taught justice and to know my history and identity,’ said Dr Halapua. 

‘Today I live and breathe and relate to people on two things, justice and identity because if we do not know who we are then what do we offer?’

He added PTC also fostered the spirit of togetherness through ecumenism, and educated theologians who have impacted the region and the world with their writings. Leaders like Rev. Dr. Sevati Tuwere and Rev. Dr. Jovili Meo. 

The foundations of the College were laid in 1965 owing to a decision of the 1961 first Pacific Ecumenical Council meeting that was held in Samoa to set up a theological college to produce church leaders to help guide Pacific Islanders through new challenges and times.

It was just 15 years after World War 2. Though many countries were still under colonial rule, the wheels for independence were already turning. Changes were many. 

Western education was a new thing, city life was already upsetting the traditional settings, food and even social roles and relationships were changing.

Church leaders were needed to guide and lead the churches and its people in the new Pacific that was coming into being.

This gave birth to PTC, that rose from the mangrove swamps at Nasese in Suva and has since become the leading theological institute in the region.

PTC Principal Reverend Professor Dr Upolu Va’ai said it was important to stage a launch event to draw public attention to the achievements of the College.

‘It aids the remembrance of College achievements and helps prepare for a future where even more challenges confront the people of the Pacific from non-communicable disease to climate change,’ 

‘PTC is now rethinking, refining and relocating theological education in a way that serves the will of God in the Pacific and the will of God is for people to be happy.’

Professor of Education for the Fiji National University Dr. Unaisi Nabobo-Baba over the years of its existence, PTC has built a reputation for ‘thought’ and ‘wisdom’ the likes of which are unrivalled because it comes from God. 

Professor Nabobo-Baba

‘I think PTC has provided thinking well before we in education did de-colonising,’ said Professor Nabobo-Baba.

‘I myself benefited from your coconut theology, from your SPATS journal. Like the thief we have been sponging off. I admit it today as representing higher education in this country. 

‘May you be the fulcrum to reclaim the decolonised, to de-homogenise institutions of higher learning,’ she added.

Professor Nabobo-Baba said PTC can become the ‘centre of much needed Pacific School of thought.

‘There is none. I am hoping for courage that you describe us as what it is,’ she said.

‘The Europeans have their schools of thoughts; the Africans have their post-colonial schools of thought.’

General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches Reverend James Bhagwan who is also a PTC alumnus said the journey of PTC is not just that of an institution but of all the lives that passed through her doors. 

‘This is a place of not just education but the formation of togetherness, of ecumenism, working together, voyaging together, of justice, and identity,’ said Rev. Bhagwan. 

The College has various events and activities planned throughout the year to mark the 55th Anniversary celebrations.