November 28, 2019

High Court Ruling Gives Adventist School in Fiji Back to the Church

Tracey Bridcutt, Adventist Record

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Fiji is giving praise to God following a decision by the High Court of Fiji that returns management and control of Vatuvonu Adventist High School to the Adventist Church.

High Court Judge A. L. B. Brito-Mutunayagam handed down his judgment on November 22, 2019, in the civil proceedings initiated by the Fiji government’s Ministry of Education against Vatuvonu Adventist High School and five trustees of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Fiji.

Medical students Etuate Logaivau, Matelita Waqatabu, and Brandon Talota, with Doctor Alipate Vakamocea (center), before commencing their final exam. Fiji National University approved the three Adventist final-year medicine students the right to sit their final exam after sunset on Saturday, November 23, 2019. [Photo: courtesy of Adventist Record]

Two significant aspects of the judgment are that an application by the Ministry of Education to take over management and control of the school was declined, thereby handing the school back to the Adventist Church. Second, the judge ordered that the appointment of a principal by the Ministry of Education must be someone “acceptable to the Church.”

Fiji Mission general secretary Joe Talemaitoga welcomed the judgment.

“It’s a good victory,” he said. “We praise God for the court’s decision and declaration.”

Talemaitoga said the mission Executive Committee would meet in early December to consider the next steps for Vatuvonu, which closed on November 22 for the holidays, with classes set to resume on January 13, 2020.

He thanked the many people who had supported and prayed for Vatuvonu (on Vanua Levu, Fiji's second-largest island) since the government commenced legal proceedings against the school and the Adventist Church on April 15, 2019. The orders blocked the Adventist Church’s ability to run the school, including having any say on the appointment of staff.

Meanwhile, Talemaitoga is also giving thanks to God after Fiji National University (FNU) approved three Adventist final-year medical students — Etuate Logaivau, Matelita Waqatabu, and Brandon Talota — the right to sit their final exam after sunset on Saturday, November 23.

Fiji Mission worked with FNU to provide logistics support, including the provision of meals and transport for supervising university staff.

“Fiji Mission thanks the Fiji National University for upholding religious freedom,” Talemaitoga said.

“We know and see our faithful God is moving. We praise Him for our young people, for His Sabbath, for opportunities to study, to witness and from whom all blessings flow.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Adventist Recordnews site.