The Editor, Samoa Observer
In your Sunday Samoan issue of 29 May 2016 you reported the Prime Minister stating an intention to ‘correct’ the Constitution to indicate that Christianity is the official church of Samoa.
You quoted him recalling that in the past, the elders wanted to insert the changes in the Constitution, but the papalagi told them not to as it would be too wordy and that there was no extremism then.
If your reporting is correct, the above and his other comments quoted in your article suggest he blames foreigners for what he sees as an important omission from the Constitution. It seems to me that the Prime Minister, like the rest of us, has selective recall. After all Christianity was very definitely a 19th century papalagi import to Samoa.
Those papalagi who used the excuse of ‘too wordy’ may have been speaking in code. They may in fact have been cautioning Samoa to ensure a separation between Church and State, to avoid the excesses they as Europeans would have recalled the Church perpetrating in medieval Europe when it had ‘official’ status and untrammelled power. (The Spanish Inquisition is an example of this.)
The Prime Minister’s proposal sounds harmless enough on first reading, but he could be letting a genie out of the bottle. We may think that what happened years ago in Europe could never happen in Samoa, but we should not forget that old cry of the historians: “He who is ignorant of the past faces the future at his peril.”
Samoa’s clerics have shown themselves not to be backward in coming forward. They already play an important opening role at Government events. The clerics seem to have the best house in each village, and the biggest, shiniest SUV. At the same time they seem to turn a blind eye to the indebtedness and poverty their offertory practices create amongst their flocks.
The Prime Minister’s initial intimation of a Constitutional ‘correction’ was quickly followed by a call from one influential cleric for action against a small non-Christian group. I fear that once the Prime Minister has had his way and gone to join Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the angels and archangels in the Golden Kingdom, we will start to see clerics representing the ‘official’ religion themselves standing for election to Parliament, not content to leave this to their followers. We can expect there then to be pressure for good Government salaries to be paid to clerics practising the ‘official’ religion. There will probably be some leaning on the education authorities to make ‘Creation Science’ a core curriculum subject in schools. Religious declarations or testing may be imposed for recruitment to Government employment, or perhaps even for visas. Government funding could well be demanded for renewal, enhancement and multiplication of the places of worship for followers of the ‘official’ religion. All such outlays would represent diversion of much needed Government funding of infrastructure.
The end result could be a necessity to amend the national slogan from: “Samoa, a nation founded on God” to “Samoa, the nation which foundered on God.”
The Prime Minister’s reported comments on this subject provide yet another reminder that religious fervour and rational thinking have never been good travelling companions.
15 June 2016