Fiji is an independent island republic in the Pacific Ocean, made up of a few large islands and over 300 smaller ones; collectively (18,270 km sq), they are slightly smaller than Wales. Fiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. The islands have a varied population of Fijian Melanesians (51%), Indians (44%), Europeans, and others. English is the official language of Fiji, but among themselves, the ethnic Fijians usually speak Fijian, and the Indians speak Hindustani.
Where the Muslims Came From
Fijian Muslims were originally Indian immigrant laborers for the sugar cane industry, brought to the islands between 1879 and 1920. Many Muslim families eventually farmed small plantations of sugar cane. Indian Hindu groups invested in building schools and pursuing Western education. Muslims, however, put an emphasis on traditional Islamic schooling to protect and promote their identity and therefore have been under-represented in institutions, civil service, and the professions.
In recent years, Islamic teachers have been employed in Fiji’s mosques and schools. Saudi Arabian finances have been used to organize trips for Muslims going to Mecca. In the past 20 years, an increasing number of Muslims have begun using Arabic forms of dress, thought by some Muslims to make them “real Muslims”. The majority, however, remain fairly nominal, though they usually react strongly if someone converts to Christianity.
The majority of Muslims live in the western area of the largest island. The first mosque was built in Navau in 1900. Now there are approximately 200 mosques and prayer houses in Fiji; in the rural areas, the Muslim communities can be identified by their presence. However, in the urban areas, particularly in the capital Suva, the Muslim population is mixed with other groups and is less easy to identify.
Christian missions are just beginning to recognize the cultural and religious distinctions between the different Indian people groups in Fiji. As a result, the conversion of Muslims has so far been more accidental than deliberate. However, small numbers of Muslims are coming to Christ through many denominations. At the present time there are only a few former Muslims who are actively witnessing to their community.
Prayer guide for Fiji:
* In recent years the church in Fiji has grown in unity, with notable miracles taking place. Pray that these positive events would influence Muslims toward Christ (Acts 2:42-47).
* Christian congregations and fellowships of former Muslims are needed to help new Muslim converts grow in discipleship. Pray for church-planting teams (Col 4:5-6).
* Most Muslims who are coming to Christ receive threats from their religious leaders and pressure from relatives. Many lose their jobs and are cast out by their families and friends. Pray that they would have courage and commitment (Rev 12:11).
Background on Fiji (World Factbook)
Fiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji, led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE. Re-elected in May 2006, QARASE was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA, who initially appointed himself acting president but in January 2007 became interim prime minister. Since taking power BAINIMARAMA has neutralized his opponents, crippled Fiji’s democratic institutions, and refused to hold elections.
Economy of Fiji
Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Sugar exports, remittances from Fijians working abroad, and a growing tourist industry – with 300,000 to 400,000 tourists annually – are the major sources of foreign exchange.
Population: 896,758 (July 2013 est.) World rank #162
Life Expectancy at Birth: 71.59 years. World rank #137
Ethnic groups: Fijian 57.3% (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture), Indian 37.6%, Rotuman 1.2%, other 3.9% (European, other Pacific Islanders, Chinese)
Religions: Christian 64.5% (Methodist 34.6%, Roman Catholic 9.1%, Assembly of God 5.7%, Seventh Day Adventist 3.9%, Anglican 0.8%, other 10.4%), Hindu 27.9%, Muslim 6.3%, Sikh 0.3%, other or unspecified 0.3%, none 0.7%
Languages: English (official), Fijian (official), Hindustani
Literacy: 93.7% — Male: 95.5 %, Female: 91.9 %
School life expectancy: 15 years
Video: Mission Trip to Fiji
This is a sideshow of my adventures on Courtney’s Fiji mission trip with awesome tribal music.