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View the PDF document Religion and politics : issues surrounding ecclesiastical politics and political development in Tonga
Author:Vaka'uta, Nasili.
Institution: University of the South Pacific.
Award: M.A.
Subject: Religion and politics -- Tonga, Church and state -- Tonga, Tonga -- Politics and government, Tonga -- Politics and government -- 20th century , Tonga -- Church history
Date: 2000.
Call No.: pac BL 65 .P7 V26 2000
BRN: 925901
Copyright:Over 80% of this thesis may be copied without the authors written permission

Abstract: This work aims at examining the political engagements of religion, particularly the Free Wesleyan Church, in Tonga. It looks at important events during the past ten years or so, the historical realities behind those events, the many views and debates surrounding such ventures, the various issues raised, and upon those findings draws out some implications and prospects for involvement of religion in politics vis-a-vis development and security in Tonga. It is proposed herein that religion, a very important factor in Tonga, and most islands of Oceania, has been responsible for some of the security and development problems, and therefore must be given serious consideration. For that purpose, the political influence and impact of the Free Wesleyan Church in Tonga will be studied and analyzed. In a sense, this work has a bipolar aim: to explore the rationales behind Wesleyan involvements in politics, and to look for a solution to what the Church should be, in relation to the stability and security of the wider socio-political situation. The need for this study lies in the fact that, firstly, the issue of political involvement is still very much a present concern; secondly, there is not enough attention given to it, especially from the academia; and thirdly, the propensity of the situation becoming like putting more fuel into the fire is very worrying.5 The debate over the religion-politics nexus is as old as the society itself. Documents from antiquity, such as the Bible, provide examples of such debate. The history of Christianity is clouded with actual events, especially during the rise and fall of the Christendom in the Medieval period. Currently, debates and incidents occurred the world over surrounding the subject. Yet the question remains: Does religion have anything to do with politics? If it does, how should it be involved? 5 As a Tongan and a Free Wesleyan ordained minister, I speak as an insider. Effects of such involvement are already evident in other regions—Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland (cf. Sates 1997), Hindus and Muslims in South Asia, Christians and Muslims in Indonesia, Muslims and Catholics in the Balkans (cf. Mews 1989). Tonga, the so-called 'Friendly Islands,1 has its own history of politically motivated religious conflict and vice versa. It ought to be aware not to fall again into such destructive snares. Inter-ethnic tensions may not be a religious issue, but that does not annul the fact that religion—with its potential conflicts, intolerance, and theo-logical differences—is contributory to the problem, and therefore should also be instrumental in working out a solution. Whether the churches, or religious figures, should be involved in political matters is no longer the question. They are and have been involving, and are continuing to do so. The proper questions to ask are: Why are they involving themselves? How should they be involved? For Whom (who are they serving)? What are the pros and cons of their involvement? It is crucial to be aware of potency of the Churches. Their decisions can either unite or divide a nation; hence stability or instability. Two kinds of questions, therefore, are herein asked; namely, empirical and normative. Empirically the questions are: what political involvement has the FWC had in the past? How do those who support or oppose such involvement justify their views? To what extent does sympathy with indigenous tradition influence those who support political involvement? What impact have those events had on development and security of both countries? Is the scaling-up of the Church's focus and impact being balanced with legitimacy, accountability and transparency within the Church? Normatively, the questions are: Is lack of cohesion within the Church likely to affect other areas of society? Is sympathy with tradition likely to lead to ethnic tensions/cleansing (let alone another secession)? What alternatives are there for the FWC, the Christian Church at large, and Tonga?
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