Churches still in denial, says Theologian

Following a roundtable discussion on religion’s role in ending family violence, Dr. Mercy Ah Siu Maliko believes some church leaders are still in denial.

The office of the Ombudsman alongside UN Women facilitated a panel-led public discussion on the matter, where following presentations by the panellists the public were invited to have their say.

Ombusdman Maiava Iulai Toma opened by reflecting on the conclusions their National Inquiry into Family Violence had regarding the church.

“Sadly, based on the views of submissions and those who gave evidence to the inquiry, the church is not seen to be doing enough,” he said.

Rare observed house visits and counselling, uses of the bible to bolster violence, and little action on competitive financial giving were just some ways churches are hindering progress, according to the Ombudsman.

As a Christian nation, the churches must lead the charge against family violence or nothing will change, Maiava warned.

However, not all in attendance agreed with the sentiment.

During the open floor session, a pastor stood to say he doesn’t believe the church promotes violence.

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Another said violence will never end because it part of human nature. Periodic fasting to atone, however, could help.

Panelist Dr Mercy Ah Siu Maliko is a theologian and researcher at Otago University and Piula Theological College, and believes Samoa needs to decide together on a “public theology”, or activity of Christians engaged in the social sphere, which will determine how they behave.

After the public discussions, Dr Maliko said she felt many people were still in denial about the role of the church in the enduring problem of family violence.

“In pointing out and labelling what is happening we can be able to move forward in a positive way, we can’t keep on denying this is a major problem.”

A misinterpretation of what it means to clearly label the issue of family violence for what it is, is holding some back from beginning to solve the problem, Dr Maliko believes.

 “We can’t move forward if we keep on saying that we are labelling people, we are condemning people.

“Sometime the negativity can help us identify positive ways of moving forward.”

But it is not just the leaders who have to take charge on this issue. Dr Maliko sees the church as any and every member of a congregation.

“When talking about church, it’s not just the leaders we are talking about here, it’s everyone that belongs to the body of Christ,” Dr Maliko said.

“The [inquiry] recommendations said the church is not doing enough, so that is a call for the church to look for other ways.”

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