"This was an opportunity for Dialogue Fiji to review its priorities, and analyse and strengthen its current path" said DF Project Officer George Nacewa.
The Dialogue Fiji Committee and Secretariat convened over two days last week at the Tanoa Plaza Hotel, to go over the 'next steps' for Dialogue Fiji.
Over the two days, the Dialogue Fiji Committee Members and Secretariat had the opportunity to review its activities from January through to September 2013.
Together they discussed the many successes and lessons learned through out this period and how they could move forward with the Vision and Mission of Dialogue Fiji
"It was also a great opportunity for the Secretariat to present an exercise on Partners mapping" added Mr Nacewa
"This is where we map out current or similar spaces and work conducted by other CSOs and NGOs in Fiji, which will inevitably paint us a clearer picture of what needs to be done and where."
The Planning Meeting also provided a space for Dialogue Fiji to look at its 2014 Calendar of Events and Resolutions for the future.
From the 23rd to the 27th of September, a few facilitators from in and around Fiji gathered to explore the meaning and value of Dialogue in the Fijian context, and more specifically the Dialogue Fiji approach. It was a great opportunity for the Dialogue Fiji Secretariat and Committee to identify participants who will be able to lead, or co-lead, national dialogue events: to see who might be able to conduct Dialogue Forums in the future. It was an intense, spiritually and intellectually fulfilling week with lots of fun memories. For pictures of the event please click on this link /dialogue-events-in-pictures.html
Over the next couple of weeks, Dialogue Fiji will be profiling trained "Dialogue in Fiji" facilitators. Here is a shot of the whole group! We hope you enjoy reading their profiles as much as we enjoyed putting them together!
“I now have a better understanding of the dialogue process and how that can be used in peace building and promoting collaboration with the various stakeholders in the communities I work with”
“My goal is to start small and eventually work with more and more people, to help build this nation”
These were the words of Cakaudrove Provincial Council Youth President, Pelasio Vakarorogo. Key leaders from various civil society organisations, youth groups, faith based organisations, women’s groups and government ministries from around the Northern Division, converged over three days in a dialogue space designed to build trust, understanding and mutual respect to contribute to the development of their communities and the nation.
The Dialogue Fiji - convened event was held at the Savusavu Hotsprings Hotel from August 28 to 31st and included participants from the Bua, Macuata and Cakaudrove provinces.
During the three-day Dialogue, participants were exposed to in depth understanding of the methodologies of the dialogue process, understanding conflict resolution and peace building, and also identifying ways to move forward collaboratively.
A majority of the participants that attended the Northern Divisional Dialogue had not heard of Dialogue Fiji before or understood the importance of the dialogue process.
Dialogue Fiji saw this as an excellent opportunity to create awareness of their work as an NGO, working to set up safe spaces for dialogue in the country.
In May and July this year, Dialogue Fiji carried out the Central Eastern Dialogue and Western Dialogue, respectively.
Kelerayani Gavidi steps down from serving on the Dialogue Fiji Committee in pursuit of new career opportunities in Samoa.
Before leaving for her new posting, Communications and Research Officer, Fenton Lutunatabua, found time to sit down with her and talk about her experience with Dialogue Fiji
FL: So Kele, I'm interested to know about your motivations behind applying for a position on the Committee
KG: As a young woman, I have always felt that young people can achieve so much if they are given the opportunity and the space to be taken seriously, and personally, I have always known that any form of youth presence on a committee, would be an asset. When I was selected, I was extremely humbled but equally empowered to give it a shot, and I haven't looked back since
FL: What will you miss most about your involvement with the Committee?
KG: The members definitely. Each and everyone of them has taught me something different. The learning and growing they've allowed me has been irreplaceable. I will also miss the unique dynamics that the Committee offered the work of the Secretariat, particularly the enlivened discussions around decision making. It was always such an interesting thing to witness and be part of
FL: How has your time on the Committee and your understanding of the principles of Dialogue been able to better prepare you for the future- especially with the new job?
KG: I cannot stress enough how powerful dialogue is. In my new line of work I will have the opportunity to work alongside, and with various members of the region. Government officials, international parties and members of the diplomatic community. My hope and aim is that the tools and values of dialogue i.e. inclusiveness, respect, open mindedness and mutual understanding, will always remain the core
foundation of my work, and dealings.
I once heard that “the most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood, and the
best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
I believe that this is the heart and soul of what Dialogue Fiji is about.
Dialogue Fiji conducted its Western Divisional scoping from the 21st to the 26th of April.
They carried out the scoping exercises in Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka, Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki and were privileged to convene at spaces that was convenient for the Dialogue Fiji team and the participants of the scoping exercise. It was a comprehensive six days of creating awareness on the work of Dialogue Fiji and more importantly, an opportunity for the team to reconnect with community leaders who had already undergone their ‘dialogue facilitation training’.
To say the work that Dialogue Fiji is doing is great would be a gross understatement.
For someone who had just joined the team as the Communications and Research Officer, the opportunity to see the Dialogue Fiji team out on the field engaging with people, listening to their stories and empowering them to feel safe enough in that ‘space’ to speak their minds, was a marvelous thing to witness.
Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. This timeless quote echoed through my soul as I watched the Dialogue Fiji team, effectively communicate with, and listen to, the diverse concerns of the many individuals who attended the scoping exercise.
What they were doing was creating ripples, by simply stating from the beginning, that they were there to listen, that they cared and that they would connect with them, first and foremost, as human beings, and then as facilitators, later.
It was the first time for me to be part of a ‘dialogue process’ set up by the Dialogue Fiji team, and it was such a grounding experience.
So simply elegant, that anyone who was part of it could instantly feel at ease by the professionalism and sincerity of the team conducting the scoping exercise.
“Dialogue for me means communication or discussions between people based on respect and understanding. We need to strive to be great listeners and allow people the space and freedom to express themselves, whilst trying our best to understand, assess, evaluate and analyze the extent of their situation, before responding.”
Those were the words of Nirmala Pariachi, one of the very first participants of the dialogue process, and now the Secretary to the Public Administrator of the Sigatoka Town Council.
“I have found that it is always good to be patient and open minded, to talk, to dialogue and then to come to an agreement.”
“At the end of the day, we want peace. Life is too short; this process can give us an opportunity to grow, through dialogue and communication, it’s all about respecting others and striving to live in harmony.”
Other participants who have gone through the dialogue process have found it really useful for their work.
Jone Nawaikula, who is now on the Community Development team for the Fiji Rotahomes Project, informed the Dialogue Fiji team that if it weren’t for that training his work would be a lot more difficult.
Nawaikula is part of the Fiji Rotahomes Projects major new development called the Koroipita Model Community which is a fully serviced professionally engineered community close to three kilometres from Lautoka City.
His line of work allows him to provide families with affordable homes and services, training, educational support and even income generating projects- enabling them to save and in time, move on to a better life beyond Koroipita.
From the dialogue process he has learnt to be a better listener and therefore allow him to better develop the capacity of the people he deals with.
“All our training with residents here at Koroipita is conducted through dialogue, we listen to issues, we discuss them, and then we identify ways we can move forward. The dialogue process really teaches you that people are experts on their own experiences and we can learn so much when we listen to their needs and move forward from that.”
Another former participant, Joana Qereqeretabua, feels the exact same way.
“In my line of work, my team and I need to raise awareness on the very sensitive topic of HIV; the dialogue process has helped a great deal with our approach to this issue. It helps people understand and breakdown the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.”
“We use the process of dialogue to open up the minds of people, not only as a tool to educate people, but to challenge them as human beings as well. For me, the exposure I have had to the dialogue process has helped me identify ways I can reach out to peoples’ minds and hearts. I am so grateful for it.”
Fanny Fiteli, Dialogue Fiji Coordinator succinctly summarised the work they carry out as a team.
“The whole point of the ‘dialogue process’ is to provide and promote, safe spaces for conflicting partners to communicate better and to bring peace to their respective communities, and Dialogue Fiji would be happy to convene those spaces”
“Conflict does exist in all or most sectors, levels and communities. We at Dialogue Fiji understand that respect should always be promoted in order to work through these differences. No matter how different your points of view, someone else’s idea is as important as your own, and the real secret to effective dialogue is listening to these diverse points of view and responding in ways that promote respect, understanding and peace.”
DF outgoing coordinator, Sandra Fong penned the following as a farewell note prior to her departure for studies in the UK
“Dear dialogue participants, DF partners, colleagues, and friends
Tomorrow is my last day with the Dialogue Fiji Secretariat. It has been an amazing 3 year journey with DF and I have prospered professionally and personally because of the amazing people I had the opportunity to meet and work with.
Thank you to the Dialogue Fiji committee who had more trust and confidence in me than I had in myself.
Thank you for providing endless support especially during the early days of DF with early morning meetings, late night discussions, and driving around the island for presentations and attending dialogue events.
Thank you for your unwavering commitment and continuous guidance especially on days when I was stuck and frustrated. Thank you for looking out for my health and even providing herbal medicine for me when I was sick.
I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with such a diverse group who believed in the need for dialogue and have a common dream for Fiji.
Thank you for continuing to dialogue and advocating for dialogue even on the days when you were suffering from a little 'dialogue fatigue'.
To the DF participants, thank you for the wonderful time we’ve shared, for opening your homes to me and sharing your stories and delicious food.
You continue to amaze me with the great work you do in your communities and inspire me to be more resourceful as I learn how so much can still be done with so little.
Thank you for trusting in the process and spreading the dialogue culture.
Thank you to the facilitators, the DF team and those who provided technical support to make the dialogues successful.
Thank you to the old DF team and the new DF team for your hard work and sacrificing your weekends to come into the office for a meeting, to pack or to travel somewhere which sometimes felt like the amazing race.
Thank you to all of you who provided support to Dialogue Fiji and especially to me from its early days in 2009, providing financial and technical support, providing a space for me to work, allowing access to your printers, internet, fax and phones and sharing your knowledge and ideas with me.
The decision to leave Dialogue Fiji was not an easy one especially during such a special time in Fiji but I leave DF with a new team who have new skills, fresh ideas and lots of energy to continue the dialogues and take it to a greater level.
I hope that you will continue to give the team the unwavering support that you gave me.
While I may not be with DF physically, I will certainly continue to provide my support in whatever way possible to the team and the process.
For those who wish to continue communication with me and do not already have my personal email address, you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
For Dialogue Fiji matters, you can contact Fanny Fiteli, my successor, on email email@example.com
Vinaka and Moce mada!”
I became a board member of Dialogue Fiji (DF) sometime between July and September, 2009 as one of the two government representatives who were initially involved with DF. The other government member pulled out when she went abroad for postgraduate studies. Thus began my personal and professional journey of self-discovery into an unfamiliar territory.
From the beginning of my involvement with DF, I was welcomed openly and made to feel at home. I knew many of the people on the board over a considerable length of time, knew something about their lives, their families, their work, their political and religious beliefs, many of which I shared and held close to my heart. They were individuals with excellent leadership qualities and strong views on how government should conduct its affairs. As a government representative, I was interested in listening to what they had to say.
If there is anything significant that has shifted my perspectives on life since joining DF, it is acquiring the art of listening to others, to different viewpoints, belief systems and understanding and appreciating the roots or sources of these ideas and the individuals who were expounding them. An important offshoot of this listening process is how to fuse these different ideas or viewpoints together and arrive at a common or neutral ground where solutions to our most common and critical problems can be resolved in an amicable, concrete and sustainable manner. Furthermore, I developed and improved my conversational skills.
I have taken these different ideas and viewpoints and the process of refining them and made them my own by redesigning or reshaping them and using them to resolve my own problems in my home with my immediate and extended family and relatives, in the work office situation, in the community where I reside, in the church where I worship and in dealing with my own people and their problems in the realm of the vanua. My time spent with DF has been a huge learning experience.
John Donne, the doyen of 17th century English metaphysical poetry once said something remarkable that might be relevant to the dialogue process and to paraphrase him, “no person is an island, entire of itself”. Thus, let us connect the dots in our ideas, in our thoughts and minds, in our hearts and souls and in our consciousness. Let us listen to each other, communicate our ideas, learn from the past, dissect the present, dream about the future, understand the problems that confront us, create safe spaces where we can collectively design solutions to resolve our most common and critical problems and hopefully build a better future for ourselves and our children. Nothing could be more important than that.
As a relatively new entrant into the field of peace building through my selection into the Dialogue Fiji committee, I have always wondered why dialogue was not a popular choice for peace building efforts in the past.
The more I read of its successful applications in other contexts and situations, the more I wonder why and how this obviously successful, capacity building, solution-based approach is not widely used as the “go-to” tool for problem solving.
From where I sit, not just as someone who works in the civil society sector but as a youth, it almost seems like there is already so much knowledge on “what not to do” rather than “what to do”. Why isn’t dialogue on the top of the list of ‘Needs to Be Done to Fix This’ for communities and groups who find themselves in conflict and crisis situations?
When I think about youths and how we can effectively hear from them, I cant help but ask whether methodologies of Dialogue can be adapted, to make it more hip and in with the “crowd” while keeping to its core purpose.
The world witnessed a wave of powerful youth uprisings across the globe in 2011. While their issues were different, the feelings were similar. They were disappointed and frustrated.
They might not have been considered important before within their own countries but I'm sure, that perception has changed now. I think if the decision makers in those countries genuinely valued youths (and they should, Time magazine has said the central, underlying feature of the Middle East's crisis is a massive youth bulge), they would have realised that youths participation is critical to the ongoing prosperity and stability of their countries.
Youths are not looking for anything complicated, just the opportunity to air their fears, concerns, hear from their leaders and be able to contribute their strengths for solutions and build a future that they can look forward to.
For me, that starting point is dialogue. Furthermore, making sure the current dialogue process is youth friendly, inclusive and participatory.
Perhaps as we are exploring these, we can also consider incorporating into the process activities that allow us to tap into the creativity, optimism, passion and excitement of young people. I believe the Dialogue Fiji secretariat has its work cut-out for them for the year; these suggestions are at best recommendations towards 2013.
In summary, how do we use dialogue to contribute to the building of our nation as we move towards mid 2012? And how do we ensure that this time around (as compared to 1987 and 2000),
· youths are included,
· are capacity built and encouraged to contribute effectively,
· and most importantly begin leading Fiji into the future using a culture of dialogue and understanding.
AS our country's attention shifts to the upcoming constitutional process, the way human rights are enshrined in the new constitution is also a very important issue.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ù Article 18: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in a community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance".
This freedom was guaranteed in the 1997 Constitution's Bill of Rights (Chapter 4, Section 35 on Religion and Belief).
Perhaps the time is right for us as a people to think deeply about the importance of religious tolerance in our country and how we can ensure that this issue that has been and maintains the potential for massive divisions in Fiji can be properly addressed in the process to develop a new constitution.
There have been many examples at the grassroots level as well on a national level of positive influence by religious groups and institutions ù social justice programmes, awareness campaigns, civic education ù the promotion of high morals and compassionate behaviour and the like.
These good deeds, however, have been overshadowed by negative actions over the past three decades ù political interference, religious intolerance, systematic attempts to impose one religion on others.
Intolerance and conflict is not limited to differences of religion (inter-religious) but also to issues such as doctrine, rituals, power and finance, within religions (intra-religious).
Sadly, this is most obvious among the wide Christian community ù the largest religious grouping in the country.
Differences of doctrine, methods of evangelism, proselytism of members of other Christian denominations (sheep-stealing), clashes in personality, power struggles and perceived or real political agendas have led to a fragmentation of the "Body of Christ" in Fiji.
Evidence for this can be seen in the formation of organisations like the Assembly of Christian Churches in Fiji, the lapse of the Fiji Council of Churches and the emergence of breakaway churches.
Add to this intra-religious turmoil, a lack of appreciation or tolerance of other religions and you have fertile soil for prejudice and religious bigotry ù insults (such as calling someone an "idol-worshipper") or even worse the desecration of religious of worship, and religious violence.
Living in Asia, where Christianity is just one of many world religions (in fact a minority and sometimes oppressed religion) has reinforced my view that tolerance and understanding in a multi-faith country such as Fiji is crucial to the "peace and prosperity" for which this nation searches.
The strange thing is that many of us have relatives and friends who either belong to a different denomination or religious community.
I may be an anomaly as a Methodist minister, with a Roman Catholic wife, Anglican children (including a goddaughter and godson) and relatives who are not only Assemblies of God, Pentecostal, Jehovah's Witness, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, but also Sanatani, Arya Samaj, Sai devotees, members of the Fiji Muslim League, Baha'i and agnostic.
However, pluralism within the family or extended family is becoming an accepted norm, no matter how hard conservatives fight against it.
Why then is religious tolerance practised within the family or the community, but not outside it?
For a number of years, a small group of people dedicated religious tolerance and understanding have met on a monthly basis to share what the scriptures of their faith have to say on a particular topic or issue ù from the subject of integrity to the issue of HIV and AIDS.
The group, Interfaith Search Fiji, is not about syncretism or the mixing of religions, but about creating understanding and appreciation through dialogue.
Unfortunately this small but successful model has not yet been accepted or endorsed by the main religious groups and has on occasion been criticised by fringe groups.
This however does not have to be the end of the story.
Our new constitution needs to provide a mechanism to provide a safe space for dialogue as well as provide the platform for co-operation on social, health and other issues as well as assist in the mobilisation of communities in times of natural disaster.
The seeds of religious tolerance have been planted through the recognition of significant holy days such as Christmas, Prophet Mohammed's Birthday, Lent, Holi, Easter (both Good Friday and Easter "Resurrection" Sunday), Ramadan, Eid, Diwali, etc by convention as well as by legislation.
As we begin the process of growing a new constitution (even if the seed is the People's Charter), each one of us is called to nurture this plant until it is a tree from which we all can eat.
"Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity".
* Visit Rev James Bhagwan's blog: http://thejournalofaspiritualwonderer.blogspot.com
Recognising the fear endemic around land issues in Fiji Dialogue and Peace building initiatives are necessary at the national level with key stakeholders. To this end, several land owners and tenants workshops have been conducted by CCF over the last decade.
But in the last five years, and under media censorship, open debate on the conflict over the future of land use rights and administration in Fiji appears to have simmered down.
At present the conflict over the future of land use rights and administration in Fiji is ethnically and politically polarized at the state institutional levels between those who support the Agricultural Landlord and Tenants Act (ALTA) and those who reject ALTA and want native and state leases administered by the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) under the iTaukei Land Trust Act (TLTA). The advocates of the latter position were previously indigenous Fijian leaders in the former NLTB, the Council of Chiefs and government coalition of the SDL/CAMV political parties. The landowners and tenants at the grassroots have little understanding of this division at the state level.
In the CCF experience of community dialogues and civic education, one of the lessons learned is that complex problems are better resolved when there is a good understanding of the issues involved by individuals, groups and stakeholders at the primary and local level, for example with local tenant communities and the local land-owning group. Such decentralised approaches can go even further in promoting local level dialogue based on a local level capacity to deal with all the dimensions of land conflict. Such an approach may reach even further to examine local level conflict resolution mechanisms.