I’m at the Namata Ashram running a Hindi-speaking lay leaders course. I’ve just had a meeting with a Fijian seminarian. I was supervising him on his cross-cultural pastoral experience a few months ago. He reminded me of the first week he stayed with his Indo-Fijian family. “I haven’t slept all week,” he told me at our meeting at the end of that first week.
“Why, what’s wrong,” I asked? “I’m really afraid that if I go asleep at night, the man of the house will come and kill me with his cane-knife.
I was appalled. “But I wouldn’t put you with someone who would harm you,” I said. “Did you hear people in the village say not to trust Indians because they would chop you?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said, “I did.” We talked about racial prejudice and how it poisons relationships between people. He went back to the family the next day. He gradually got used to being there. The family was very good to him and he got on really well with them.
Now, months later, he came to me today. “I’ve discovered why I was afraid of being killed in my sleep.” “What have you discovered,” I asked eagerly. “Was it not just because of racial prejudice?
“It was more than that,” he said. “When I was a small boy at home, my father used to give me a hiding. I never knew why. I was really afraid of him. The same feeling of terror came over me when I tried to go to sleep in that house. The fear that was buried inside me from childhood came up into my mind again.”
I was amazed at his insight. I could then encourage him to talk more about his childhood difficulties. We discussed why his father might have done what he did.
“Go back in your imagination to one of those beatings,” I suggested. “Stay with the feelings. Invite Jesus to be with you there. Speak to Him about it. Then, if possible, forgive your Dad.”
Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji.