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The Challenge to Fijian Methodism - the vanua, identity, ethnicity and change

Christianity is the dominant religion in the Fiji islands today. However, this was not the case in the early eighteen hundreds. Back then, the Fijians had lived a life and culture of their own that was not known to the world. This all changed when different groups of Europeans started to arrive in the early eighteen hundreds. Of these, the group that had the most influence on the Fijians was the English Wesleyan missionaries. The result of their evangelism was the establishment of the Methodist church in 1835. This church is the dominant denomination in Christian Fiji and has been closely meshed with concepts of Fijian identity. However, the church's dominance is being challenged, partly because of the entwining of concepts of church and the vanua (land, people). Additionally the arrival of other, new denominations with their different ideologies has also affected the standing and influence of the Methodists. In this thesis the way in which the missionaries had introduced themselves to the Fijians and how they influenced and converted them to Christianity are outlined. This was not a one-way affair, where only the missionaries' ways of living and ideologies were involved. They first had to accept the structure and some of the customs of the vanua before their mission could proceed. It was found that the influence and ideologies brought by the missionaries was incorporated into the vanua ideologies and has formed the basis of what became the Fijian way of life. When Fiji became a colony of Britain in 1874, the incorporation of the vanua and Methodist Christian ideologies and structure was well established. However, all these views, and the previously accepted local views of Fijian culture, have changed in response to the challenges from the new denominations. The effect of these new approaches and ideologies on the vanua and the Methodists in Fiji is discussed. The outcome of this on-going situation is not yet clear.
Type of thesis
Degei, S. B. (2007). The Challenge to Fijian Methodism - the vanua, identity, ethnicity and change (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2481
The University of Waikato
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