A Palm Sunday without celebration

It is one of the biggest celebrations in a calendar year for the world’s 2.2 billion Christians but the halls of worship in churches around Samoa were silent on Palm Sunday.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc throughout the world and putting the faith of men and women to the test, and Samoa has not been spared the global onslaught, with a Government-declared state of emergency (S.O.E.) banning public gatherings including church services, in a bid to mitigate the threat posed by the virus.

The Methodist Church’s Reverend Livingstone Peseta told Samoa Observer in a telephone interview that at this time of a public health crisis, it is the idea of reverence for Palm Sunday by congregation members that is more important than their celebrations of it.

“God sees through the hearts of each one of us not through the outside,” he said. “Palm Sunday 2020 will be the first ever in the history of Samoa to be silent but the world is fighting this dangerous virus and that involves our country.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, himself a devout Catholic, announced last Friday that the S.O.E. will be extended by another four weeks to ensure that the country is indeed free of COVID-19.

The announcement last Friday by the PM will ensure hundreds of church buildings in Samoa remain void of churchgoers’ singing and worshiping for a record six weeks, since the S.O.E. was first declared last month.

For 78-year-old Lauagaia Sinaumea, the wife of the late senior Methodist Church pastor Rev. Sinaumea Leota, Palm Sunday will always remain significant as Christians remind themselves of the difficult journey that Jesus Christ took to crucifixion and resurrection.

She said there is no crime in not holding church services and the celebrations that came with it to mark and respect Palm Sunday.

“Just because there are no church services or celebrations of the Palm Sunday doesn’t mean people would treat this day as any other day of the week,” she added. 

Palm Sunday in Samoa is normally celebrated with a reenactment of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey with followers laying palms and cloaks on the road for him to ride over. This is then followed by a church service. 

Samoa is one of few countries in the world yet to record a confirmed COVID-19 case and has processed over 20 suspected cases with all tests coming back negative. 

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