The Fiji Corrections Service (FCS) has signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow the Seventh-day Adventist Church to play a more active role in rehabilitating its members back into society.
Currently, 392 of approximately 2500 prisoners in Fiji are members of the Adventist Church, making up 16 per cent of the total prison population, second only to Methodists. This number has concerned leaders of the Adventist Church in Fiji, inspiring them to take action.
Trans Pacific Union Mission president Pastor Maveni Kaufononga says that rehabilitation is a priority for the Church in Fiji.
“I am glad our Missions are supporting with the rehabilitation of our prisoners coming out,” he said. “It is said that many of them go back again and again because they can’t find a place outside of prison where they are accepted. Many of them come out with no place to stay, no job, stripped of [their] dignity. The Church should be there for them.”
Rehabilitation efforts will largely focus on providing care and community to former inmates when they are released from prison, as well as counselling services.
Fiji Mission personal ministries director Pastor Talemo Ratakele Cakobau said the Church’s ministry will be more effective in partnership with FCS.
“Evidence has shown that [some] inmates have become frontline ministers of the Adventist Church because of the care given to them,” he said. “The memorandum is very significant to us because now we can directly liaise with FCS in regards to providing services.”
FCS commissioner commander Francis Kean says the work of corrections personnel falls in tandem with the work of the Church.
“Religious organisations play an instrumental role in the process of rehabilitation and behaviour change,” he said. “It has a way of counselling without heavy reprimand and this helps the inmates to see the need to change from their wayward ways and become better members of society.”
Coming into effect last month, the memorandum is a culmination of months of talks and a symposium that was held for the FCS and Adventist Church in February this year.