WE’RE NOT A CULT: ELDER
Controversial group leader speaks out for the first time over a row rocking RKS, which has seen three teachers transferred
The leader of a controversial prayer group alleged to be a cult, in the centre of a Ratu Kadavulevu School row, yesterday broke his silence. Nananu Village elder and landowner -RQH %LXWLORGRQL VSRNH RXW IRU WKH åUVW time in defence of his small group. The village is near RKS in Tailevu. Mr Biutilodoni said: “We are not a cult. We are a legitimate prayer group.” The row erupted because more than 60 students and some teachers had joined the prayer group. It caused tension in the school and escalated to a point that prompted the Ministry of Education to intervene and transfer three teachers to other schools. Mr Biutilodoni dismissed speculation that they were practising strange religious practices. He said maybe this was because their prayer sessions were in his house in the forest on his land. He said the RKS students and teachers joined his group with their own free will
and choice. He said his group was called the “Self Support Ministry”. It is a breakaway group from the mainstream Seventh-day Adventist Church. The group is based at Wainitadro Settlement, Wainibau, near RKS. The prayer ministry started last year in a small classroom at RKS until this year when they were asked to leave.
Mr Biutilodoni said this year they requested the school for a small space which they could use on the Sabbath days. He said unfortunately the school disagreed so “we’ve been having the Sabbath in my own home.” “The prayer group has more than 10 members along with more 60 RKS students.
“I’ve never forced students to join this prayer group, it’s from their willing heart. During Sabbath, they come to my home for prayers. “We don’t belong to any church denomination we are just an independent prayer group which strictly follows the Bible. “The main reason for our breakaway was because, the mainstream church did not agree with some of our teachings. We have Sabbath reform where we worship on Saturdays, Health reform, where we don’t eat meat and Dress reform where we emphasise on wearing long sleeve clothes. This was to keep the holiness of God,” he said. Mr Biutilodoni said most of the students who were part of the prayer group came from “very broken families and troubled homes. “So they feel wanted and safe in there. “Because of the teachings, most of the students have stopped smoking and drinking, and some parents do come to me saying, they’re really happy with the changes.” Issues arose at RKS since some of the students had allegedly chosen to stay home and do Bible studies than attend classes.
“I didn’t tell them to stay home, it’s their own decision. Students also come to me saying teachers in school have been passing remarks and calling them names because of this prayer group, even when they want to read the Bible in the classroom they will get scolding,” he said. The Police and Ministry of Education reps have also visited Mr Biutilodoni’s home to investigate. “This morning the Ministry of Education came here to take one of the student who has been with us since Monday. The poor boy came to my home in tears seeking comfort because of his family problem. I told the Police that they should be happy because this is also a way to reduce crime rates in school,” said Mr Biutilodoni. “Many crime cases happen here in school simply because of the weak spiritual upbringing. The Lord is using the youths these days. We are not practising any cult teaching here, we are just based on the Bible. I’m ready to answer questions, if there’s someone in doubt, let it be a parent, teacher or anyone, do come and I’ll tell you the truth,” he added.
An official of The Seventh-day Adventist Church said the issue would be referred to the church leadership before any statement could be made.
Village elder Jone Biutilodoni. To the right is the shed where they hold prayer sessions.
Jone Biutilodoni (in blue), with a friend.