Editorial comment – Tradition and development

PIANGO executive director Emele Duituturaga and its partner representatives from PTC, USP and FNU. Picture: FT FILE

IN our fast-changing world, it is good to know that some attention is being focused on traditional wisdom. How it impacts us as a nation, and the region is a topic of discussion in Suva this week. There is a focus on capturing knowledge that is fast disappearing in the islands. The inaugural Pacific Philosophy Conference which started on Tuesday and ends tomorrow, hopes to address this aspect of Pacific life. There is hope that it will assist in the way islanders cope with today’s social, economic, health and other associated problems, allowing us to embrace the wisdom of our forefathers. The conference — a partnership between the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO), Pacific Theological College, University of the South Pacific and Fiji National University — aims to collate wisdom sharing for our next generations to capture and adapt. Organisers hope the event will give students who attend a chance to learn from the wise in the region. PTC associate professor and head of Theology and Ethics, the Rev Dr Upolu Vaai said the Pacific was faced with development changes that were causing the evolution of our ways. The partnership, he said, came into being because of the common interest of the four institutions in the search for a new development narrative for the Pacific. The conference, he said, was the first of its kind looking at “Pacific relational philosophies that could function as a point of reference for relational ethical behaviours and models to save the planet from ecological destruction”. To that end, key custodians of wisdom, recognised elders from around the region, were targeted to bring with them the wealth and voices of local communities to enlighten participants throughout a week of “discussion and talanoa”. PIANGO executive director Emele Duituturaga spoke about changing the mind-set of people. She spoke about the importance of Pacific philosophy. As we advance with the rest of the small Pacific Island states in a world that is demanding more of our people, we sometimes miss answers to our problems right here on our doorsteps. Poverty, health, social, economic and other associated problems are affecting islanders one way or another. In the end, our customs and traditions, which used to encompass how we cared for our environment, our ocean, our health, our relationships and fostered respect between people of all ages, colour and from all corners of this region have been affected. For instance, the erosion of our once healthy lifestyle is evident. Fiji now tops the list of countries affected by diabetes. The answers to this pandemic might be in the past, in the way our people lived off the land, growing their food and eating healthy meals. Other Pacific Islands face the same problem. This initiative to bring together traditional wisdom holders to share their knowledge in key areas of climate, seasons, ocean, land, economy, spirituality, navigation, identity, ceremonies and rituals, the arts and education deserves acknowledgement. Surely, we have a great responsibility to take up the challenge to change our mind-set — for ourselves and for our children and future generations.

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