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What is it with the church and money these days?

What is it with the church and money these days? Every time we see Church Ministers or church representatives for that matter make the headlines, it’s often and always something to do with money. And lots of it too. Like seriously. Whereas the country’s biggest denomination, the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa’s ongoing battle with the Government over tax monies continues unabated in Court, questions have also recently surfaced about money being given to the Methodist Church for playing host to the upcoming Pacific Games. We’re talking about several millions by the way.Elsewhere, other denominations are asking for money, some building massive unnecessary church buildings demanding millions of money and some churches are breaking apart because of money. Money, money, money. Oh dear.Folks, we’re not making these up as we go. Indeed there is nothing-fake news about what we’re discussing here today. This is the cold truth in Samoa and we are purely presenting a view based on what is available out there – especially in the media. The fact is for the past several years, we have sat back and watched the evolving role of the church from being a hospital for the broken and the lost to such a machine dominating not just the news but everything else when it comes to matters of wealth and money. To be clear, we’re not saying it is wrong for the church to have money. Absolutely not. For the church to grow, like anything else, money is necessary. We are also not saying it is wrong for them to stand up for what they believe is right when it comes to matters involving money. The church, and church Ministers alike, are entitled to their views and to do what they feel is best to protect their interests.   But something is terribly amiss somewhere when all you ever hear and read about in the national news week in and week out are controversies involving the church and money. The reality in Samoa today is that one week we see a dispute about the church and money and then the next week we see more headlines about some church ministers being gifted brand new cars or congregations gifting them luxurious and expensive homes. We’re talking thousands and thousands of tala, in some cases millions, collectively. Ironically these multi-million tala windfalls for church ministers and senior church officials are being funded by some of the poorest people in Samoa. You should listen to their complaints, we’re talking about elderly women, men and children who and can barely afford to get by. Many of them owe so much money and cannot pay their loans and yet they continue to borrow to keep up appearances - and in doing so continue to feed this vicious cycle. Isn’t that sad? You wonder what Jesus Christ would say about what’s happening in Samoa today if he were to suddenly visit?  Speaking of money and the church, it brings us to the issue of cryptocurrency which for the past year or so the Central Bank of Samoa (CBS) has been warning the public against. Pointing to the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2007, the Central Bank of Samoa last year warned: “Any promoter of virtual currency who contravenes this Act is subject to an imprisonment term or penalty fine, or both an imprisonment term and a fine.” On the same warning, the bank reminded the public that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, Onecoin, ethereum, EOS, Lite Coin etc. are not currencies issued or regulated by the bank. “They do not have any legal tender status to be accepted as a currency in Samoa. Investment in such digital currencies is considered very risky and speculative in nature,” the bank said. “Therefore, the Central bank does not encourage anyone to invest in any of them.” They didn’t stop there. The Bank goes on to say any person who wished to promote cryptocurrency or digital currency is considered under the Money Laundering Prevention Amendment Act 2018 as a Financial Institution. “This means it must have a valid business licence issued in Samoa and is required to follow the Central Bank’s reporting requirements for Financial Institutions.”This was last year. Two weeks ago, one of the many Samoan church pastors who invested in cryptocurrency stepped forward to confirm his involvement. Responding to questions from this newspaper, Pastor Samoa Unoi confirmed he in invested in One Coin after he was introduced to it by an “Italian friend” in Australia. While he declined to say how much he invested, Pastor Unoi was unapologetic about his decision.Listen to him: "Yes, to be honest I am involved in cryptocurrency activity, I don’t need to tell you how much I invested. But I invested in it, I invested last year. I’m not even in a hurry to get money back from that. I’m not relying on that, I still live my life thinking beyond, I still have money to lean on…”He added that the decision to invest in One Coin was purely business."As far as I am concerned, I didn’t even pursue or get deeply involved,” he said. “At this stage there are people who are deeply involved and are treating it as a business, but me it’s for an investment, that’s it.” Asked about the warning from the Central Bank, Pastor Unoi was not impressed. "When the Government warns us about cryptocurrency, what’s their business?” he asked. “If I lose it they’ll never give me back my money, if I lose why go to the Central Bank, it’s my choice to invest.”Pastor Unoi added he invested his personal money and not church money. Well that’s interesting isn’t it?When it comes to cryptocurrency, at least Pastor Unoi has had the courage to be upfront about it and tell us what he thinks honestly. Now it’s up to the Central Bank and the Government to do what they have to do. Keep in mind, it’s not just Pastor Unoi, there are many other pastors and church officials caught up in this. Now since the Government is quite persistent with holding CCCS Church pastors to account over tax laws, what about other Pastors who have ignored the Central Bank's warning in relation to the Money Laundering Prevention Amendment Act 2018? What do you think?Have a pleasant weekend Samoa, God bless!

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Street Talk

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Public support EPC employee drug test proposal

To me I think it’s something worth doing because it’s not appropriate for them to be on drugs while working or while serving the country. Another thing is in any ministry or any country, everyone working in those ministries are strictly not allowed to use drugs while on duty. These drug tests should be done in the Ministries from now on.There is a belief by some that the use of drugs helps develop and awakens the mind while doing something but what is more important? It’s the safety of our people. I would go 50/50 on this if I were to choose which option to support. It’s because I believe in the role of marijuana for example, I believe that it can wake you and keep you up. But if you overdo it that’s where it gets worse, especially since it can affect the lives of the public and colleagues.Personally, I think it’s what we should have been doing. This is a major problem that has been taking the lives of our people here and it’s all because of alcohol and drugs. These are exactly the things that have kept some families apart because of death and why? Because it’s either they get drunk or are too high on drugs while driving. Car crashes on the road because of reckless driving is now common in Samoa and we cannot let these things happen again, so I strongly support this new strategy of drug test in the Ministries.It’s important to protect the public on the road, in case someone loses a life again from reckless driving caused by alcohol and drugs. Not only that, it can also protect colleagues from losing their lives on the job. Some lack rational when it comes to these things, but it’s these things (drugs). I think it would be nice to have drug tests early in the morning, before they start the day at work.It’s true some people working for EPC are on drugs as I had a brother who worked for the EPC. I know a lot about the issue with their vehicles causing accidents on the road, so it’s very important not just for EPC but also other Ministries' employees to undergo drug tests. Another thing the Ministries should be doing is to collect the car keys right after they clock out, because I also noticed that it’s after work that I always see these vehicles flashing here and there to show-off.I support the application of drug tests inside the Ministries because I know there were heaps of accidents before involving alcohol and drugs and lives were lost. Innocent lives, people who went to buy sugar for their families, suddenly got run over by a car. Kids playing around the road, just happened to end up lying in their graves at such early ages. These are the kinds of accidents we’ll always be facing if we don’t emphasise doing drug tests of motorists.

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Letter to Editor

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“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…”

Me thinks Pr. Samoa Unoi of the Peace Chapel Christian Fellowship protests far too much when found out about his involvement with cryptocurrency. And in spite of his job description, I find nothing peaceful about his language. It’s also hard to believe he does not really care about the money he invests in cryptocurrency as he repeatedly claims. It only makes one wonder about the origin of such money. As for his rave against government interfering in how he spends money, the good pastor ought to know that the Central Bank of Samoa is duty bound to warn the people of Samoa about money scams that come to Samoa from overseas. The Bank is only doing its job as all good shepherds should.And in any case, the Central Bank did not tell the good preacher what to do with his money or with his flock’s money for that matter. What the Bank did was give a blanket warning about the dangers of these shady get-rich-quick money schemes, in the same way it warns people about pyramid schemes and counterfeit currency. And the good pastor may not be concerned about throwing money away, which incidentally is not what a faithful steward would do with heaven’s blessings. But most people do, and they will find the Central Bank’s warning of great value in avoiding being scammed. In fact, this is not the first time the good preacher has publicly shared his thoughts about money. The first time was to oppose the government’s proposal to tax church ministers like himself. He did not want to pay taxes and is one of only a few church ministers that spoke out publicly on the subject. As for Pr. Unoi’s claims about losing money by investing in UTOS, if true, he would be among a very select few who have had that happen to them. It makes you wonder whether the good preacher is not confusing UTOS with some other get-rich-quick scheme he is dabbling in.But no wonder the Good Shepherd told his followers to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth, nor rust doth corrupt, or where thieves do not break through nor steal” And if He was around on earth today, Jesus will no doubt have included as well all ge- rich-Squick scammers and prophets.F.S. SheepSamoa.

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