As the Chairman of the National Council of Churches, the voice of Deacon Kasiano Leaupepe matters. And when the country needed to hear from him, his voice has been one of reason, offering the kind of reassurance we need in times like these.
For sure some of us might not agree with him and his views might be a bit out of line but that’s okay. Amidst the challenges and the controversies, one of the most beautiful aspects about modern Samoa is the vibrancy of views.
The fact everyone is allowed to express them freely on many different forums including the increasingly popular social mediums can only be positive for Samoa.
At the same time, there is a lot to be said about the absence of decency, restraint and respect in some of these conversations. It’s been awful to follow some of these threads where we find so much hate, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. The language is horrible; imagery is graphic and there is total disregard for the va tapu and the va tapuia. It’s sad, especially in light of so many social changes we are grabbling with.
In our search for answers, we wanted to hear what the church thinks. We wanted to know where it stands? What role does it play? And is it performing that function.
As the National Council of Churches, which combines all the mainstream churches in Samoa, there is none higher than Deacon Leaupepe. And his views to an extent can be interpreted as that of the Church in Samoa.
So what is the problem with Samoa today, we asked Deacon Kasiano.
“As a country, I look on with sadness because we have lost our core values based on the fa’asamoa,” he said.
“We have lost the respect that the brother has for the sister, the children to the parents and the young ones to their elders. These values have eroded and we need to revive and restore those values to solve a lot of these problems.”
We couldn’t agree more.
For Deacon Leaupepe, he took us on a journey.
“Back in the days, the brother protects the sister, she is the pupil of his eye. Nowadays that respect has gone.
“Why? Because we decided to bring in the palagi ways rather than continuing with our culture and the fa’asamoa. We have ignored our va tapuia and the ava fatafata.”
There was another issue. Deacon Leaupepe criticized the push for human rights, especially among young people.
“I’m telling you this is one of the main causes of these problems. This ideology has allowed our children to think that they can do whatever they want. What’s happening is that when we as parents spank them, they (our children) go and call the police.
“This has made everything so complicated. But our country doesn’t need this because it was through the “sasa” (light smack) by our parents that we are who we are today.
“Nobody was pronounced dead back in my days from being sasa by their parents. As a matter of fact we became better people because of our parents “sasa.”
At this point, we must say that while we don’t necessarily agree with Deacon Leaupepe, he does have a point. And one we should take the time to hear and consider very carefully.
We believe there is a time and place for the sasa or discipline. The problem we’ve found over the years is that there is no clear line between a decent sasa and a hiding. These hidings are nothing but abuse. It has resulted in deaths. This is what we’ve got to be very careful about.
But Deacon Leaupepe is a sensible man. Asked if he is not wrong to oppose the push for human rights, he said Samoa has always had its own ways of dealing with these issues. And it starts from the home with the parents.
“The parents are being careless in looking after their children,” he said.
“Hence this is why such bad behaviours are spreading like like a wildfire.
Parents are not doing their job, they are too proud of their children and that has blinded them with what they are suppose to do. They should teach them, educate them about proper values and morals.
“The foundation of the upbringing of a child is breaking apart and so parents need to rekindle and revive our traditions and culture.”
But where is the church in all this?
What is it doing?
Deacon Leaupepe said the church is still playing its role, which is preaching and reminding people about what God wants.
“Some people they blame the ministers and the churches but we are doing our part that God has called us to do,” he said. “We are here to preach the word of God. We are here to advice and look after the church that is all.
“We can give advice and advice but if the people are too stubborn to listen then there is nothing the church can do about it.
“All we can do is pray for the people and make sure that they are walking according to God’s will that is all we can do. But at the end of the day it is up to the people if they want to listen or not.”
Well fair enough.
But perhaps Deacon Leaupepe and church ministers should take a different approach. If people are not listening, it means their ministry is not effective enough. Maybe, just maybe the people are sick and tired of listening to sermon after sermon from the pulpit. They want to see actions. After all, don’t actions speak louder than words?
As for praying, there is a time for everything.
A prayerful life is what connects man and his God. But when people are desperate, when there is so much suffering and agony, the last thing we need is another prayer meeting. Love and compassion are action words. No amount of praying will make people understand what they really mean.
Looking at the hate and anger being spread ever so widely these days, if there is anything this world needs, it is love. And the church – with Deacon Leaupepe – can do us all a great favour and take the lead. Let’s walk the talk!