Miracle-Workers and Nationhood: Reinhard Bonnke and Benny Hinn in Fiji

Type Journal Article - The Contemporary Pacific
Title Miracle-Workers and Nationhood: Reinhard Bonnke and Benny Hinn in Fiji
Volume 22
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
Page numbers 74-99
URL http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/cp/summary/v022/22.1.newland.html
The story of mass evangelists Reinhard Bonnke and Benny Hinn visiting
Fiji is part of at least two larger stories: about the promotion and increasing
popularity of the Pentecostal/evangelical phenomenon globally, and,
in Fiji, about the circulation of particular ideas regarding politics and citizenship
that were promulgated by the previous government under Prime
Minister Laisenia Qarase, with the support of an umbrella group of Christian
churches called the Assembly of Christian Churches in Fiji (accf). In
this essay, my primary focus is on the second story, analyzing the way in
which Bonnke and Hinn were invited to Fiji to support a political and religious
vision of correct citizenship: The first visit (by Bonnke in 2003) was
in the context of a post–2000 coup political landscape, and the second (by
Hinn) took place in the same year as the 2006 coup.
I locate the 2000 coup as the first important marker because, although
Bonnke arrived three years later, his visit was rationalized locally as an
act of postcoup reconciliation and therefore a significant aid for nation
building. For example, as part of the promotion for Bonnke in the Christian
Mission Fellowship (cmf) publication Harvest Times, both President
Ratu Josefa Iloilo and Prime Minister Qarase wrote columns welcoming
Bonnke in these terms. Iloilo noted that it “would certainly be instrumental
in bringing the various races together, plus supporting the Government’s
reconciliation endeavour in uniting the people of our beloved
Nation” (Harvest Times 2003c). Qarase cast the visit as part of the tireless
efforts of religious groups “to heal the wounds that have created ill-will
and mistrust between our different communities” (Harvest Times 2003a).
Although not evident from these statements, at that time the idea of “reconciliation”
was used as a keyword in two very different philosophies of citizenship, in which the healing of either interracial or intra-racial relationships
was being emphasized. Yet both philosophies referred to reconciliation
as a process that was sorely needed to offset the rivalry between
factions that had both led to and resulted from the 2000 coup.

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