The desecration at the Votualevu Tirath Dham Hindu Temple in Nadi area of Fiji has sent shock waves across the world.
According to reports, desecration was caused on December 16 night, violating this sacred Fiji Hindu place of worship. Damage included pouring paint over the images of deities Ganesha, Hanuman, etc; graffiti/slurs on walls; theft of donation box, sound system and other equipment; rubbish strewn in prayer area; etc.; and was said to be third such act at the temple.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that it was reportedly disturbing for the hard-working, harmonious and peaceful Fiji Hindu community, who had made lot of contributions to the nation and society, to receive such signals of hatred and anger.
Such incidents should not be acceptable in a country like Fiji which reportedly protects freedom of conscience, belief, and religion; and where communities of diverse faiths frequently come together to develop mutual understanding and respect; Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, noted.
Rajan Zed urged Fijian President Major General Jioji Konusi Konrote, Prime Minister Rear Admiral Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Commissioner of Western Division to visit this Hindu Temple to show solidarity with the Hindu-Fijians, meet the area Hindu community to reassure them and address a public rally in Votualevu condemning the desecration. He also urged them to take the issue seriously and urgently and make sure that such incidents did not happen in the future, in order regain the reportedly falling confidence of the Hindu community.
As an interfaith gesture, Zed also urged Reverend Dr. Tevita Nawadra Banivanua, President of Fiji Methodist Church; leaders of Roman Catholic, Assemblies of God, Seventh-day Adventist, Anglican and other Christians denominations; and leaders of Muslim, Sikh, Baha’i and other religious communities and non-believers; and ordinary Fijians to come forward condemning this desecration and expressing solidarity with the nation’s Hindus; who had also made huge contributions to its success, prosperity and growth.
Reactions from Fiji:
Fijisun.com reported that the Commissioner of Police Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho has vowed that religious intolerance will not be tolerated and said that “as responsible citizens, we must respect each other’s religion and the Police will do a thorough investigation and we will apprehend the perpetrators. They will be brought to justice.”
Parmen Nath Bharos, 47, is an executive at the Hindu Temple, and he expressed his anguish saying that “when a sound system is robbed we can replace it but when our God statues are found with graffiti and damaged we cannot replace it.”
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum who visited the place to understand the situation was quoted by the Fiji Sun.com as saying:
This will not be condoned because every Fijian should have the ability to practice their faith without any hindrance and they should feel free to do so particularly in a place of worship.
National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad has already denounced the attack and told the press that after taking a look and the level of the desecration it is clear r that “this was a calculated and deliberate desecration of a place of worship. It does not suggest a random act of vandalism.”
The Chief executive officer of the CCF, Bulutani Mataitawakilai, called the graffiti and racial slurs on the Hindu temple ‘a disturbing affront to Fiji’s multi-ethnic society.’
The international religious freedom report, 2016, issued by the USA government notes that:
According to the 2007 census, approximately 64.5 percent of the population is Christian, 28 percent Hindu, and 6.3 percent Muslim. The largest Christian denomination is the Methodist Church, which makes up approximately 34.6 percent of the population. Other Protestant denominations account for 10.4 percent of the population, Roman Catholics 9.1 percent, and other Christian groups 10.4 percent.
The report also talks about a spate of robberies around the country, in which three Hindu temples were broken into and desecrated in January, August, and September. One of the temples was broken into several times. The authorities arrested a man for one of the attacks and released him subject to curfew pending trial.