Night after night, these past three weeks, the leaders of Fiji’s mainstream churches have looked down the barrel of the TV camera during Fiji’s 6pm news.
And solemnly intoned, one after the other, that violence against women and children is an offence before our Creator and Redeemer:
“It is a sin” – declares Fr Anthony Lemuelu, of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Fiji;
“It is a sin” – declares Ms Fine Ditioka, of the Fiji Baptist Convention;
“It is a sin” – declares Archbishop Peter Loy Chong, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Suva;
“It is a sin” – declares Pastor Simione Tugi, of the Fiji Evangelical Fellowship;
“It is a sin” – declares Pastor Vipin Narayan, of the Fiji Community Churches of Christ;
“It is a sin” – declares the Rev Dr Tevita Banivanua, President of the Methodist Church in Fiji;
“It is a sin” – declares Major Uraia Dravikula, of The Salvation Army;
“It is a sin” – declares Archbishop Winston Halapua.
And if viewers didn’t get the message during the main evening news, well, that 60 second video clip (you can watch it here)has been rebroadcast four times each night since November 20.
There’s no escaping the message at the movies, either.
Because there that video clip is again, broadcast as a trailer before every film being screened in Suva’s 10 Damodar movie theatres, in Lautoka’s four Damodar theatres, and Nadi’s two.
Breaking the silence
It’s a sadly relevant message, too, says the Rev Sereima Lomaloma.
Sereima, who is the Diocese of Polynesia’s Ministry Officer, says surveys have shown that 64 percent of women in Fiji between the ages of 15 and 49 have, at some time, been the victims of “intimate partner violence”.
For some years now, growing numbers of Fijian women’s groups and churches have been observing “Break the Silence Sunday” on the Sunday immediately before November 25 – which the UN recognises as The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
That November 25 UN commemoration launches a 16-day international campaign against Gender Based Violence, which culminates in Human Rights Day, on December 10.
This year, thanks to Archbishop Winston Halapua’s initiative, those days of activism in Fiji have broken through to a whole new level of community awareness.
100 percent support
In September, Archbishop Winston, urged the various denominational leaders in the Fiji Council of Churches to ramp up their “Break the Silence Sunday” observance – and he proposed that video campaign.
He got 100 percent support for that, too – and the Rev James Bhagwan, who runs the Methodist Church of Fiji’s Communication Department set about making the video happen.
James has great contacts in Fiji’s media, diplomatic and business world – and he was able to tap into support from a UN Women’s body and Australian Aid to get the video produced and the slots booked on Fiji TV One and the Damodar movie theatre chain.
The House of Sarah, meanwhile, produced liturgical resources appropriate to “Break the Silence Sunday” – and these were picked up, not just by Anglican Churches, but by the Methodist Church of Fiji, which is by far the largest denomination in the country.
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Polynesia is putting its own house in order: at its 2013 diocesan synod, it passed a resolution declaring “zero tolerance” for violence against women and children in Anglican churches, schools, communities and homes.