Ecumenical voices support decolonization process for French Polynesia
The visit was coordinated by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in collaboration with the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) and the Maohi Protestant Church (EPM).
The delegates expressed solidarity with the local churches on the issue of decolonization and discussed the impact of nuclear tests and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.
In 1947 the French government had managed to remove Maohi Nui from the UN list of countries to be decolonized.
“The international ecumenical solidarity visit to French Polynesia comes at the right time,” said Rev. Francois Pihaatae, general secretary of the PCC. “This is significant in terms of accompanying the EPM and the Maohi people while they are struggling to deal with the critical issue of re-inscription of French Polynesia on the UN list.”
Members of the ecumenical delegation with President Oscar Manutahi Temaru of French Polynesia in Tahiti.
The ecumenical solidarity visit follows a statement issued by the WCC Central Committee in Greece last year, supporting advocacy on re-inscription of French Polynesia on the UN list. This WCC statement and the visit were initiated by the EPM, asking the CCIA to facilitate advocacy on the issue.
The 2012 Synod of the EPM also urged the WCC and the PCC to “support its efforts for advocacy on re-inscription of French Polynesia.”
Rev. Taaroanui Maraea, president of the EPM, said that the EPM “considers re-inscription of French Polynesia on this list as means to protect the people from decisions and initiatives taken by the French state contrary to its interests,” quoting a decision made at the EPM 2012 Synod.
John Taroanui Doom, WCC president from the Pacific, spoke about the consequences of nuclear testing by France in French Polynesia. “The problems directly and indirectly linked with the nuclear tests in the past thirty years in the French Polynesia are not yet settled,” he said.
“Successive governments in France suppressed the demands from the affected local people and denied people’s legitimate demand for the sovereignty of their land and right to self-determination,” added Taroanui Doom.
A consultation organized by the EPM in conjunction with the international ecumenical solidarity team visit, exploring the issue re-inscription of French Polynesia, was attended by more than 100 participants.
Advocacy initiatives in French Polynesia
In a meeting with the delegation, President Oscar Temaru shared that at the Sixty-seventh Session of the UN General Assembly in February 2013, under agenda item 60, implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the situation of French Polynesia was discussed.
At that time, he said, Nauru, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu moved a draft resolution on self-determination of French Polynesia. The intention of the resolution is to seek support of the international community “to restore the inalienable right of self-determination to the people of the territory.”
Temaru expressed his hopes that a majority of UN members will vote in favour of the resolution in the General Assembly, where this will be finally discussed.
President Oscar Temarau also acknowledged support given by the WCC on this issue. He mentioned the engagement of the CCIA - UN Liaison Office in New York thirty years ago, when the civil society and opposition political party leaders of French Polynesia started advocacy on re-inscription of French Polynesia together with New Caledonia.
The delegation also met with the former president of French Polynesia, Gaston Flosse, who said that “re-inscription is not the real issue of the land. Many powers held by France were transferred but those are not yet used by the locals.”
President Temaru also met with the WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, during a meeting of Pacific church leaders in Samoa in 2011.
Rev. Wakira Wakaine, president of the Evangelical Church in New Caledonia and member of the delegation, explained the advantages of re-inscription for a country on the UN list of countries to be decolonized. He shared experiences from his own country, which was re-inscribed in 1986 on the UN list after long struggles by the people.
Members of the delegation also included Rev. Gregor Henderson, Uniting Church of Australia and WCC Central Committee member, Rev. Francois Pihaate, general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, Fiji, Rev. Prince Devananda, secretary of mission and ecumenism, Methodist Church of New Zealand, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the CCIA and Faautu Talapusi, WCC’s programme executive for Youth and Pacific Church relations.