About the church vs. state

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Dear Editor,

I write regarding issues arisen in your editorial headline “Church vs. State, what to do?” I know what to do Mr. Editor!

But I will tell as I’m entwined into the quality of your intricate masterpiece parlance Mr. Editor, for my simple mind, trying to analyse your flair.

So you had said: What we feared would happen one day in this country is unfolding before our very eyes.

Well, here is what I suggest Mr. Editor and all; I can only earnestly urge everyone, to please calm down and come back to planet earth. All is good, well and under control.

There is no need to be hysterical; there is no need to be alarmed for; there is no need to hurriedly buying a one way ticket to leave the country!

Well, unless of course, you are a mariner rushing off to board your next sailing to the Bahamas, the gulf somewhere in the Middle East, or, perhaps if you are departing the country for the very first time to go overseas to pick apples and oranges.

If that so is the case, then may you please leave to go with God and rest assured, when you return some day, we are all still here; live and kicking as always we may be.

And as only small fishes in shallow waters culture, yes they’d jump for dear life, when just a pebble hits and sprung the waters.

Because Sir in our government, are fishes from the deep blue ocean that roams around with the Whales, the Grey Nurse, the Great White, the Tiger, the Bull, and of course all the fierce species of sharks that never panics but swim as per normal no matter a giant leap to challenge the holy dear life at sea.

And when they are caught and cooked of course, we ought to chop the whole coconut tree down to keep them into the methodology of preparation for the hot rocks.

 (Umm ... I am not referring to them guys but the fishes though). But ... I think that is how the other guy wants us to call them!

No? Yes? It is?

Nevertheless, it’s your fish though(lauī’a). Or is it my fish?(la’uī’a). What ever the fish!

And of course, the essence of our sons and daughters who had been graduated and are now being decorated with some colourful academic achievements who are now in parliament, and are heading our government departments as well.

Them guys are now running the show and are not afraid to make hard ball decisions for the development of our country, for the good of each and everyone of us, the people of this great country Samoa, we proudly call our home.

So you wrote Mr. Editor: With Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s administration acquiring such political power over the years turning Parliament into a one-party state, they perhaps thought they are so powerful no one would ever dare to question their decision-making, let alone stand up to them.

And I say: I am so terribly sorry Sir, It is the result of being so good at doing the job. Samoa as a country is happy and satisfied with the so many infrastructure developments to lift our country out of the doldrums.

In the last general elections being held in 2016, where 99.99 per cent of voters elected the government democratically.

Now Sir, it really saddens me now that you appear not to believe in the democratic process of electing a government for the people by the people; as the Hellenic had called it, DEMOKRATOS!

And did you say Sir, no one wants to stand up to the man and his government? Would you please stop lying in the skin of your teeth!

How many times have you written editorial that caused the man to pull his hair out? He’s losing hair fast because of your written word Mr. Editor.

How many times have your smashed words into his face as he had read into his daily Samoa Observer and letters of words are staring at him as if they are saying: Beat that Mister!!!!

I laughed my head off when I saw your “no one stands up to the man” spurious and I had thought you have another talent as a standup comedian. Nice try Mr. Editor, nice try.

And then you wrote: “With Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s administration acquiring such political power over the years turning Parliament into a one-party state”.

Now hang on there Sir! Now hang on just there Sir!

Are you alluding the HRPP government and the honourable prime minister of Samoa were not elected but were appointed?

That is how I am making it to interpret. Your facts are a bit distorted here. Perhaps the night was getting on too long and the screen was taking over the better of you Sir?

There have been so many political parties that had been formed in the past and have dissipated into thin air. The noises from the steering wheel swapping sides was even greater than this but that was just a hogwash.

Even the last official Opposition Party that had been decimated into oblivions in the 2016 general elections.

And for you to direct the blame and point the rough end of the stick towards the Hon. Prime Minister of Samoa and the HRPP, to me is not a very fair assumption of how it was eventuated.

Them to me have held the fort fair. They fought the battle and succeeded to guard. They deservedly so to spin the coffers. Until 2021, then the country would go back to decide.

And if the CCCS church minister would run as candidates then, are they prepared then to do the most most decent and honourable act and hand back the “sacrilegious Susuga” resign from the ministry and get themselves some matai titles to run for parliament?

We’ll see.

Then you wrote Sir: Well that was until this week when the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, the biggest denomination in the country, flatly rejected the law requiring Church Ministers to pay taxes on their alofa (offering received by Pastors).

And I humbly say: Perhaps the biggest, but not the majority of Samoa.

The country voted the HRPP just 2 years ago and gave it the mandate to continue the development process to benefit everyone. I am sorry but that is the 20/20 vision from my angle.

So you said: What that has led to is an unprecedented stand off between the State and Government where both parties are eyeballing each other to see who blinks first.

Well I say Mr. Editor. Perhaps though. But all is under control. As the CCCS is already committing seditious act against the State making public statements to overthrow the democratically elected government. They will not succeed.

Then you wrote: From an outside perspective looking in, this is great fun, especially in a country that recently declared itself an official Christian state. And here we have two of the most powerful institutions on the land taking on each other like we’ve never seen before.

And from my humbled angle: I can only hope and pray to Lord God Almighty, for any harm to remain so so far far away from Samoa and her people.

May He help to bring us peace and harmony. Let our leaders handle delicate issues to bring sense and settle any intense situations amicably without fear, to do what is best for our people.

I can only wish with humility, for His Highness the Head of State of Samoa and His Masiofo to be in the safest of all our hands and protection.

May also the life of the Hon. Prime Minister of Samoa and Cabinet be our responsibility as people to give our lives to save.

And in times like this when life is facing a challenge, I have so much pride and compassion for no harm unto anyone; even to those who wish and hope for me for some bad omen.

So you said: Who is the genius who warned that the state and the church do not mix? Didn’t somebody tell them to separate politics and church matters?

And I say: I humbly think, perhaps no matter who the genius was, but for the running of a country, it is for those who were democratically elected.

And for the running of a church and how they want to shape it is nothing to do with an elected government but for the leadership of the denominations.

However, a church operates with a country that is run by an elected government. Never had been a government that runs within a church.

So when members of a church had formed a rebellion within a country that is run by an elected government, that Sir is a very serious crime against the government.

As that is the matter right now with the hate public speeches made and is published in the medium is purely seditious. That now is the matter for the government to deal with. And I hope, let the law enforcement people to deals with that. And you said: Now here is the concern. When two blades of steel clash, sparks fly in all directions. That’s exactly what is happening in this case.

And I humbly say: Like you write Mr. Editor, it is now a very very, very serious concern for me.

And that surely tells us all the government and church ministers are human. I just hope us human will come to our senses and do what is the will of our God; not to make sins and break laws. God is God. We must separate human from God.

So you write: We don’t need to be reminded about Samoa’s loyalty to their God and churches.

The worry is that this confrontation is growing nasty and as sparks fly in all directions, we hope there’s no fuel leakage close by that could lead to an eruption causing irreparable damage.

And I say: I also have the same concern but I have faith in our government to do what is best for all the people of Samoa. The government must let the law to take its toll and treat us all equally without favour none or whatsoever.

The law is in place to protect each and everyone of us. That is a wide held belief and may also the safety of the police be paramount. May also the life of each and everyone of us in the care of our Lord God Almighty.

You said: Since the law to tax the Head of State and Church Ministers became effective in January, the E.F.K.S. had refused to obey. They said they wanted to wait until their Fonotele this year to discuss the matter.

I say: It is one law for all. The minute a country starts to treat people differently, then the call for corruptions this corruptions that. Hence, a government will become a laughing stock of the world.

This is the 56th year old Samoa. She is no longer a baby that chop copy cut and paste to play the fiddle while the yoyo is transcending zig-zagging to a flat tune going to nowhere.

This is the well-oiled Samoa and is on the move. No one gets into the way. This is the Year of Our Lord 2018 not 1900 when our leaders were abused and mistreated. Now is the time for us all to hold proud our destiny is with our own very hands.

Then you write: While they were meeting, Prime Minister Tuilaepa issued a clear warning.

“You will answer individually to the law,” he said.

“The law does not target the Church, rather it targets the Church Ministers individually.

“This law is the same as the law governing murder; once you violate that law, you alone will be criminally charged.

“And if you conspire with someone else to murder another, you’ll be charged as well.”

I say: How clear is that? It couldn’t be any clearer; crystal clear. And that is in very simple English for all to understand.

And you wrote: That’s when he referred to convicted Cabinet Ministers, Toi Aukuso and Leafa Vitale who were jailed for conspiring to murder another H.R.P.P. Cabinet Minister, the late Luagalau Levaula Kamu.

 

Tuilaepa said everyone who conspires to reject the law would be dealt with.

“They conspired (to murder) and then Toi refused to be a part of the plan but Leafa continued with the plan,” Tuilaepa said.

“That is the defense that Toi exploited to clear his name, but Toi should have reported this matter to the Police but he didn’t and that was why he was charged. That is the same principal that is applied in this matter (of the taxes).”

“The culprit and the conspirator will face the same charges... meaning if the Secretary of the Church is the one who is giving the wrong advice to the elders of the Church, it means the Secretary’s actions are a factor.”

So what is Tuilaepa saying? That all members of the church who discussed and supported the rejection of the tax law should be charged and hauled to jail? Thousands of them too? What a scenario that would be?

I say: May their souls rest in the peace of our Lord. They broke the law, and were punished, and had passed on. No matter their crime, they were sent for rehabilitation. But they did also serve our country and did some good work to help bring us where we are today.

The Hon. Prime Minister of Samoa is saying, for now, all those who conspired have committed a crime. The very serious crime now in this issue have been committed seditiously and treasonous.

That so when the church had reached its resolution to resist the tax law, the church had conspired.

The call for the downfall of the government by the church, is conspiring to commit treason. To say the hate speech in public, is purely seditious.

And you said: In any case, Tuilaepa pointed out that all other churches are supportive of the law unlike the E.F.K.S.

“Have you ever heard of other churches elaborating about this issue in their conferences?

“All the other churches, aside from this denomination (C.C.C.S.), once they were informed, they agreed noting this is a must because even the Bible says to pay taxes.”

I say: As I have not heard yet from any other churches how they stand in this tax for the church minister law, therefore I cannot make any comments.

But you said: Well that’s not what the E.F.K.S. believes. Which is what the General Secretary, Reverend Vavatau Taufao highlighted when he confirmed the Church’s rejection of the tax law.

I say: Mr. Vavatau should speak only matters pertaining to the CCCS. It is wrong for him to drag others to tarnish their good law abiding reputation. I believe other churches would have their own wise people in due course to speak for themselves.

And you wrote that the Spokesperson had said: “There is no teaching by Jesus that points to the taxing of Church Ministers,” he said, adding that “Jesus teachings is clear, what belongs to God, give it to him.”

And I say: There also were no teachings by Jesus for the church ministers not to pay tax. What’s the issue here Mr. Vavatau?

Jesus was specific; give unto Caesar his, and unto God that had belong to Him.

Mr. Vavatau is coming too short and is deceptive with his interpretation of the Bible just to suit his side of the bargain.

So you wrote Mr. Editor: Asked to elaborate, he said: “The common belief among church members of their alofa to the Faifeau, is that they give freely with the notion this is their way expressing of their love for God.

“That is why they give and more reasons why they do not want the Church Ministers to pay taxes.”

And I say: It is not the CCCS church ministers’ call of how they want to shape Samoa. Nor its the members to have a say.

As he is proudly repeating himself like a scratchy vinyl, regrettably so but I had to follow suit to counter: That call alone comes from the Hon. Prime Minister of Samoa and Cabinet.

It is neither Mr. Vavatau, the Elders, the Fonotele or whoever he may had wish to say that made their decision. The Samoa government has the final say who pay taxes.

 You wrote: Obviously Tuilaepa and Rev. Vavatau are not reading the same Bible. Still, Rev. Vavatau said it is the right decision.

“For me personally, I am very proud of my church, they stand by their faith and I am very proud of that,” he said, this time fighting back tears. “I am proud of my Church. We can’t compromise the Gospel to satisfy human necessities.”

How serious was he? Serious enough that he’s ready to face the consequences that Tuilaepa had warned about.

“For the Church, I hope they are ready, but for me personally, I am ready to face the consequences. I cannot speak for the Church Ministers but considering the response of the Fonotele, they are ready to face the consequences.”

Now let’s pause here for a minute and picture this. Can you imagine Prime Minister Tuilaepa sending in Police officers to arrest all those disobedient E.F.K.S. Ministers?

What will church members do? They are unlikely to be happy to just sit around.

And what about Police officers who are also members of the E.F.K.S. church?

Will they be daring enough to arrest their own spiritual parents?

This is where this dispute is heading unless a solution is found soon.

The good news is, that according to Rev. Vavatau, the Church is seeking an opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Tuilaepa. What happens at that meeting will determine the next development in this mighty mess.

As we head to church on this Sunday, let’s pray that both parties come to their senses and end this fracas once and for all.

What we need to keep reminding ourselves is that problems are not solved by confrontation, but through mutual respect, humility and the humbling practice called dialogue.

Since we know that confrontation will only aggravate and destroy, it’s important for us all to learn to forgive, forget and ask what would Jesus Christ do in this situation?

Isn’t that why we are called Christians?

I hear you Mr. Editor.

But please allow me to conclude my analysis and hereby urge all to mark my word from hereon. Mark my word from hereon.

When the worse had to come to the worst and the local police would not own up to their allegiance and oath to serve Samoa, they then also will face the full impact of the law of Samoa.

They will be charged with treason; deserting the post; disloyal; treacherous and etc. etc. etc. etc..

And if the local police would expedite their duties accordingly and still not able to cope with any unrest that may occur, then the government will call New Zealand.

Then call Australia. Then call the Pacific as it had happened for the Solomons and for Timor Lest to help keep the peace and harmony in our country.

And if our jail is jammed-pact, then, as the Hon. Tialavea Tionisio Hunt now has the power of disposal in his discretion that the Court had recently granted unto him to declare where ever and whatever he may have decided as appropriate to call gaol, who knows, he might assign his motels at Faleapuna as jail?

And that so is what I call a holiday at the LeUaina! Hence for the very first time, I would ever want to go to jail!!

However, let me assure all, for me, or for anyone, it will never ever come into that here in Samoa.

As for the very existence of us the Paramount chiefs and the Orators of Samoa, we have a pivotal role to play help the government to defuse any volatile evaporations that may flare up in our country.

As well, there are church ministers of other denominations in our country who will play their true role as members of the clergies to serve God to the full and help bring peace and harmony for Samoa.

There is nothing to worry about our country is in safe and good hands. God bless Samoa!

 

 With my utmost respect,

Tofaeono Misãtauveve Iosefo Joseph Hollywood 

Palisi

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