Pacific churches to meet in New Caledonia during 2022 referendum

The Pacific Conference of Churches says it plans to hold its 2022 general assembly in New Caledonia to coincide with the third referendum on independence from France.

The pro-independence FLNKS movement said it would exercise its right under the Noumea Accord to call the final and third vote in 2022 amid a push by the rival side to get France to thwart it.

Ten days ago, 46 percent voted for independence, fuelling expectations that fewer abstentions among Kanak voters next time will see the pro-independence camp win.

Netani Rika, of the Pacific Conference of Churches secretariat in Suva, said the PCC was working with the Protestant church in New Caledonia.

"We'll have the general assembly there around the time of the referendum and the Pacific church leaders should be there to pray over the newly formed nation of Kanaky to give their blessings," he said.

"For us it is very important that we all be free. It's a common saying in the PCC now that unless all members are free, we cannot claim to be free as the Pacific region."

Before the 2018 referendum, the Conference's general secretary said holding a referendum was pointless because the Kanaks had become a minority.

Francois Pihaatae said France should just follow the process of the UN and give back the sovereignty and independence of all colonies, including French Polynesia.