Good evening, Bula vinaka, and Namaste.
Tonight, we mark milestones in two remarkable legacies; the 125th Birthday of your celebrated founder, Swami Pranavananda Maharaj, and 20 years of service to the Fijian people by the Fiji Sevashram Sangha.
If you look to any of the world’s most successful countries, you will see they are defined above all by the collective will and strength of their societies. Ultimately, it is the people, the organisations they support, and the effort and energy they give to their country, that set nations apart and make them truly exceptional.
For two decades, the members of the Fiji Sevashram Sangha have shown the strength of your faith through service to your fellow Fijians. Your countless acts of compassion have had an impact too wide to capture in words. But to put it simply: Your commitment to service is exactly how great societies, and great nations, are built. Your work makes us all proud to call ourselves Fijians.
In the spirit of Swami Pranavananda’s teachings, this organization’s legacy is not constrained by the chain of slumber. You have defined yourselves through your actions; by taking Fiji forward through education, the arts, and philanthropy. Your principles are universal.
You have supported Fijians, not based on who they are, but rather on the difficulty of the circumstances that they face. Because regardless of our faith and regardless of the way we worship, Fijians know what is right, we know what is wrong, and we know we must do what we can to aid those who need our help.
Throughout history, we have seen quite clearly – and at times, quite painfully – the absolute imperative of unity among all Fijians. We have suffered the folly of division along ethnic, religious, and provincial lines. And that experience has shown us the immeasurable value of the common and equal citizenship all Fijians share today.
It has taught us that we must move forward as one nation, one people, together, leaving no one behind. And the work of your organization has served as a pillar of solidarity in support of the united Fiji we know today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We gather tonight in a moment of crisis. A global pandemic is claiming lives by the millions, while we remain on the frontlines of the climate emergency. On both fronts, the Fiji Sevashram Sangha has helped us defend those most vulnerable in our society. Families have been fed, homes are being rebuilt, and books are being read by students because of what you have done and what you are doing.
I was in the North just one week ago in communities devastated by cyclones Yasa and Ana. The same weekend I returned to Suva, the Fiji Sevashram Sangha embarked on its third phase of Cyclone Yasa Relief operations. I know many in this room have been in the same communities that I have personally visited across Seaqaqa, Bua, Dereketi, and Nasarawaqa. You have seen, as I have seen, how those contributing the least to climate change are suffering most from the stronger storms and rising seas. And I hope you know, as I know, that we cannot be silent about how this global crisis is affecting our people.
We should never underestimate what Fijians can do for each other, nor what Fiji can do for the world. Our leadership on climate action is making a very real difference for vulnerable people everywhere on Earth. As members of this organization, your charitable work is invaluable, as are your voices in our national chorus calling on all nations to confront this global crisis with the urgency that it demands. There is a better path, a path that leads to harmony between humanity and the natural world. Only together – as a global society – can we secure that great achievement for people and the planet.
Tonight, I understand we have some commemorative stamps to launch that honour 20 years of service by the Fiji Sevashram Sangha.
Vinaka vakalevu to Post Fiji for helping share this occasion with Fijians across the country. I hope tonight is a wonderful evening for everyone, and I look forward to the selfless service you will all give your nation for many more decades to come.
Vinaka, Thank you, and Dhanyavad.