The 2016 academic year at the Pacific Theological College in Fiji started on January 25th. The Pacific Theological College is a regional seminary operated by churches from Seventeen different countries in the Pacific region.
The excitement of meeting new students from different denominations with different traditions is something that we look forward to every year. The ecumenical spirit portrayed by the college is the strength of the churches in the Pacific, especially when collectively raising our voices on issues of justice and fairness in this region.
Last year the college celebrated its 50th year anniversary and the church leaders have renewed and reaffirmed their commitment to social issues in the region. This year there is a sense of new direction as the college recruited a Jewish professor to lecture in Old Testament. Beyond ecumenical formation, the college has ventured into inter-faith partnership to enhance and enrich the objectives and aspiration of the churches in reaching out and making a different in this part of the world.
There are times in the Pacific when political and economic treatises between nations become obstacles to justice. Governments wanting to maintain their diplomatic relations with other governments ignore the cry and need of the people for justice. Such is the issue of the “forgotten genocide” in West Papua where the Indonesian government continues to colonize the people and their land. In such incident, the church has become a vital voice raising the concern of our brothers and sisters in West Papua and around the region.
There is no better place to train ministers and future leaders of the churches in the Pacific than the Pacific Theological College. In here theology is mixed with the Pacific imagination resulting in a hermeneutic relevant for our people and our land. Climate change is also a danger to the lives of people living in low lying islands. The role of the church in times like this is crucial. The church as an institution in the Pacific is a body that warrants the respect and attention of the people. The Pacific Theological College trained ministers and future leaders of churches to understand and appreciate the different values each culture, church, and nation brings to the development of a unified (though in diversity) theological structure that in mission can benefit our people.
This year reminds me of the analogy of the body of Christ in Ephesians. Verse 16 of chapter 4 states, “Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.” I see this as a perfect picture of the Pacific Theological College. Every member of the community fits in well to play their individual roles in a collective form. For without collectiveness, there is no individual. The individual can only discover self within the beauty of collectiveness/togetherness/community. That over there is a pure Pacific concept. Please pray for the mission of God in the Pacific through the Pacific Theological College.
Niko Tapaeko serves as a Long-term Volunteer with the Pacific Council of Churches located in Fiji. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.