Suppression of religious meetings and the arrest of Methodist leaders in Fiji is worrying churches throughout the Pacific region.

The Methodist President Ame Tugaue and General Secretary Akuila Waqairatu, have been arrested on charges of breaching Public Emergency Regulations for participating in a church standing committee meeting that had not been approved by the government. They pleaded not guilty and were later released on bail, but have been banned from preaching or speaking in public
visionnetwork National Director Glyn Carpenter, who is also chairman of the South Pacific Evangelical Alliance, said the situation in Fiji is a huge concern to the church in New Zealand. "The situation is serious and we are very concerned about the instability."

Mr Carpenter is hopeful that the faith of Fijians will stay firm. "When something happens that causes Christians to take a stand it can cause a revival of faith," he said. "It may cause some people to retreat and take the path of least resistance, but it will also cause some to stand up more boldly to speak out about the message of the kingdom of God."

Among increasing crack downs on free speech and gatherings, in July the government banned the Methodist annual conference and annual choir festival, a national event that usually draws tens of thousands of participants.

"[The banning of events is] making life almost impossible for a church whose spiritual lifeblood is based on gathering together," the British Methodist Church said in an August statement.

The Fijian Methodist ministers will next face a pre-trial hearing on September 24, followed by a full trial on November 19, according to The Australian newspaper.