On this White Sunday, let this day be a day of reflection

And so here we are again today in Samoa celebrating White Sunday. Folks, time sure flies since it doesn't feel like it was that long ago, when we celebrated the last White Sunday.

Not that it matters if you are one of the thousands of young children across the country being spoiled today on your special day as you are given the best of everything.

Come to think of it, some adults would give anything to enjoy that privilege – and the simple joy of being care-free, once more.

But then in this life, you are only a child once, that’s the truth. It is why it’s so important for adults to always remind the young ones to enjoy being children and allow them to be children. Once they are past that stage, it’s lost forever. All of us adults will have stories to tell.

It is for this reason that days like White Sunday are important.

It’s true that times have changed and many things have also changed. For instance gone are the days when children used to get so excited about eating chop suey and pisupo on White Sundays.

Today, offer the young ones chop suey and pisupo for toanai and they will give you a funny look. Even the sheer joy of eating ice cream and cake on White Sunday is not the same anymore. That’s because we are in 2019 where habits and interests have changed from our days.

Besides, these food items are no longer considered luxury, like they were back then. The novelty for many kids has worn off, especially the ones who eat it every other day. We accept that that is not the case for all the children in Samoa.

Which brings us to another point. There is more to this day than just food, memory verses and new clothes. Looking across the country, White Sunday is an an opportunity to pause, reflect and consider the problems affecting children.

The fact is we live in a very difficult time where we see problems everywhere. We don’t need to tell you about what’s happening in this country. If you are a regular reader of your newspaper, you should be well aware of the issues confronting this nation, especially in relation to children.

We’re talking about the growing number abandoned babies, cases of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional - involving children, violence and much, much more.  

Think about the rising number of children who are being sent out to the streets at odd hours to make money for their families.

Let’s not forget the children that are being denied the opportunity to get an education because their parents and circumstances prevent them.

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Look at the growing number of young kids seeking refuge with organisations like the Samoa Victims Support Group. What does this tell us today?

The point is that while it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate White Sunday, there are a lot of issues pertaining to our children we need to seriously think about. We need to think about what’s most important for them and the kind of future we want for them.

The story on the front page and the message from the Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Reverend Maauga Motu, could not have come at a better time.

While it's nice to enjoy White Sunday, Reverend Motu reminds us to think about the children who are suffering at the hands of their family members every other day. Drawing on his experience of 14 years as a parish Minister, Rev. Motu said abuse is a real issue in Samoa.

 “I met a lot of parents who did this,” he said. “They punish their children. They beat them. They engage in fights between themselves before the eyes of their children, fight and exchange swear words. I am hard on those kind of parents.”

So he should. To be quite frank, that is shameful. But what does the good Reverend offer as a solution?

 “We have to counsel [parents] to prevent them from continuing with this evil manner of beating, swearing, doing any sort of thing that are evil in the eyes of the children,” Rev. Motu said. “[The parents] must teach [their children] love, kindness. They must hug their children every morning before they go to school. They must treat them well when they come back from school.”

We couldn’t agree more. If anything, there is much to be said about the need to change and embrace new attitudes towards parenting and how we raise the next generation of leaders. We need to speak life into their beings, not condemnation and curses that will only pull them down.

Lastly, children need our attention as much as our affection. When we don’t give them our attention, they’ll find something else.

In this day and age, what children want and need more than anything else is quality time with their parents. Many children are being starved of quality time with their parents because they are too busy. There is always something. There is work, extended family commitments, friends, village, sport and church activities.

We wonder why our children don’t listen to us at times. How can they listen if they don’t recognise our voices? And how can they recognise our voice when we are hardly around?

The truth is simple enough. If we’re not spending time with our children, they are spending that time with someone else. And whoever that person is, that’s obviously the voice they will recognise.

That’s why social media has dominated young people’s thinking and behaviour today. For many of them, it is perhaps the only space where they feel they are valued and relevant. It’s a tragedy but we only have ourselves to blame. 

It is not too late to change.

Let this White Sunday be a day of reflection, evaluation and a change of attitudes where it is needed – not just for children but for all of us who play a role in raising and loving them.

Happy White Sunday Samoa, God bless!

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