Fiji’s major religion is Christianity, followed by Hinduism, and a small percentage of Muslims and other small religious minorities. The Christian-Hindu divide is a great cause for religious tensions.

 
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Constitution and government

After years of coups, and suspension of the constitution, Fiji adopted a new constitution in September 2013, which incorporates international human rights standards for freedom of religion or belief, and freedoms of expression, association and assembly. It is too soon to say whether these newly declared rights will be respected in practice, especially given the recent history of coups and widespread violations of the rights to free expression, association and assembly.

The new constitution of 2013 creates a secular state that guarantees freedom of religion or belief for all persons. The new constitution’s Bill of Rights also guarantees: the right to freedom of speech, expression, thought, opinion and publication (Article 17); the right to freedom of religion, conscience and belief (Article 22); the right to freedom of assembly (Article 18); and the right to freedom of association (Article 19).

Family, community and society

Ethnic conflict

The conflict in Fiji is drawn largely along ethnic lines that also reflect religious divisions: the indigenous Pacific Islanders who led the coups are mostly Christian, while the descendants of Indians who lost rights under the coups are mostly Hindu. Nevertheless, even during military coups and rule by emergency powers, the authorities generally respected the right to freedom of religion or belief, although there were some vandalism against places of worship, especially Hindu temples.

In 2009, Fiji’s Court of Appeals ruled that the coup of 2006 was illegal and the government was therefore illegitimate. The government responded by suspending the constitution and imposing Public Emergency Regulations (PER) to ban public protests and tighten government control of the media.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Even after the end of emergency rule, with its extensive censorship of political comment, the government continued to censor the media and limit freedom of political expression. In2012, the government threatened not to renew Fiji TV’s license after it aired interviews with former prime ministers. The severe restrictions on freedom of assembly under emergency rule have been loosened since 2012. If fully implemented, the 2013 constitution will remove the remaining restrictions on the right to assembly and public demonstrations.