Giving to the church comes down to a personal decision.
So says Father Jerry Sialau, who has been serving the Fagamalo Catholic Parish for more than four years. He believes Samoan people are neither poor nor do they live in poverty.
Speaking to the Village Voice in Savai’i, Fr. Jerry said he is aware that people are criticising the churches because of the many monetary demands. He is also aware that some people have made the connection between these demands and the poor standard of living.
However, he said people have the choice to give or not.
“You have that freedom of choice whether to do it or not, because the church has no prison to take you to if you don’t give,” Fr. Jerry said.
Father Jerry knows how hard people in the villages work to provide for their families.
“I have also seen families who are all struggling but that’s all because they don’t work,” he said.
“We have food every day, but they said we are poor. It’s only sometimes we don’t have money.”
In Samoa, there are many ways people can sustain themselves. For instance, Father Jerry said earlier this year, he started a pigsty project with a vision that when he leaves the Safotu Parish, the project will continue to generate income for the church.
“I wanted to set a good platform not only for the school but for my brother priest who will follow me.”
“With this pigsty, we spent a lot of money to put it up but with all the people who contributed, it all comes from their good heart.”
Fr. Jerry said the villages could do with more jobs.
“You don’t need to be rich to set up a good project but if you do it with a pure heart it will end up well.”
Speaking of the government, he said they should be proactive in creating revenue generating projects for people in the rural villages.
“Most of the employees are travelling from Safotu to Salelologa every day to work but if you calculate the money spent on your fare five days a week compared to the salary they get paid, it’s a total waste of time to work.”
Father Jerry said the government employment opportunities in rural areas including schools, hospitals and police offices are not enough.
“Even though we have resorts and hotels there are limited opportunities.”
He also said families depend mostly on remittances.
Father Jerry also shared his understanding as a priest about the poverty in Samoa.
He said that from the very beginning, in the time of Jesus, there were both the rich and the poor. Unfortunately there are people who are rich in material things but poor on the spiritual side.
This is where freedom of choice applies.
“No matter how much and how many contributions you do for the church it is your own choice.
“But the choice you make whether to do it or not, should come from a pure heart,” added Father Jerry.
“If it comes from your heart whether it’s small or big, God sees your heart and blessings will be upon you.”
He said the principle of moral issues are good and bad and that is the person’s choice but the church doesn’t force anyone.
Father Jerry said with the choices we make whether it’s good or bad also applies to ourselves and in our families.
We have lands to work on and the ocean to depend on.
“If you work hard on your land it will pay off well in the end.”
“We should work hard and drink the good juice from the fruits of our human hands.”