Last Updated 5 October 2018

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

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Constitution and government

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.

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 rights 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).

However, social behavior has not necessarily caught up with constitution, and issues remain in law and practice (see below).

Education and children’s rights

There is no legally required religious education. In theory, the Ministry of Education administers and regulates the curriculum. Religious groups, whether or not they receive financial assistance from the state, must maintain the educational standards prescribed by law.

However, most of the schools in Fiji are run by religious organizations. Almost all of them are public schools, and they run collective worship in line with the religion assumed by the school. Public schools that are run by Muslim organizations may have strict dress codes including hijab.

Non-compulsory religious instruction in schools is allowed. Schools may incorporate religious elements, such as class prayer. Theoretically, teachers are not compelled to participate, and students may be excused should their parents request it (it is unclear if children can opt themselves out in accordance with their evolving capacities).

The government provides funding and educational assistance to public schools, including schools owned and operated by religious organizations, on a per pupil basis. Religious schools remain open to all students. According to the law, the government ensures free tuition for primary and secondary schools.

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. Many Hindus have fled abroad. There also continues to be a deep seated distrust of Muslims.

Less than 1% of the population is non-religious according to some official sources. Non-religious persons have reported that there is prejudice against them within the Government and wider society.

The government also previously banned the Methodist Church of Fiji, the largest Christian denomination in Fiji from attending their conferences for about 6 years. Methodist Church had history of making discriminatory comments against people of other beliefs during the coup.

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.

In 2012, the government threatened not to renew Fiji TV’s license after it aired interviews with former prime ministers.

According to Freedom House the press is only “partly free” as of 2017.

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