Partners in roundtable address violence
A national day of prayer, a fast, village committees, a new theology: these were all suggestions made by church members at a roundtable on ending violence against women, held yesterday in Apia.
U.N Women and the office of the ombudsman gathered church leaders and members, academics and the government to address the issue of religion and family violence.
Guests were addressed by a panel of five people experienced in the issue: Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma, Dr Mercy Ah Siu Maliko, Deacon Kasiano Leaupepe, Afamaaga Faauiga Mulitalo and Justice Talasa Lumepa Atoa Sa’aga.
Dr Mercy Ah Siu Maliko is a theological lecturer at Piula Theological College, and a researcher at Otago University. She presented her thesis on how a ‘public theology’ has the power to end family violence.
“Public theology,” she explained, “is the activity of Christians who engage actively, and are obligated to be present and active in the public sphere.
According to Dr Maliko, the values that “undergird” the fa’asamoa and Christian values overlap in meaningful ways.
“In both the fa’asamoa and the Christian faith, love is the central value from which all other values flow.
“In both alofa and Christian love, violence against women is an impossibility,” she said.
The judge of Samoa’s family violence court, Justice Talasa Lumepa Atoa Sa’aga said in Samoa, the church is the most powerful institution there is.
“For the family court to work, it needs community support,” she told the audience.
“This is not a legal problem, it’s a social problem.”
The Judge, who had a copy of the bible at her side, said its teachings can save lives when applied properly.
“73 per cent of people coming to my court list no church, or denomination unknown on their forms, yet they all get character references from their pastors.
“The government, the ministry of justice just doesn’t have the resources, I believe, so I implore you, pastors and ministers, to mobilise.”
Churches could provide funds and shelter for women and children with abusive husbands and fathers
Judge Talasa said she frequently witnesses women withdraw complaints against their perpetrators for fear of losing financial security.
“Women will continue to put up with violence because they see only their children, and that they could have no income,” she said.
Reinforcing the point of collaboration, chief executive officer of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development Afamaaga Faauiga Mulitalo said Samoa can no longer work “discretely and individually.”
“Church leaders have the authority in Samoa, and our people tend to listen to them,” she said.