Parliament backs Samoa being declared Christian state

By Sarafina Sanerivi 26 January 2017, 12:00AM

Parliament is a step closer to amending the Constitution to define Samoa as a Christian State.

This followed widespread support for the Constitutional Amendment Bill (No.2) 2016 tabled by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi last year.

According to the Constitutional Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016’s Explanatory Memorandum, the government aims to insert in the Constitution that Samoa is a Christian nation to declare the dominance of Christianity in Samoa.  

During the second reading in Parliament this week, Tuilaepa said the Constitution’s reference to Christianity as it stands is only in the Preamble of the Constitution.

 “The discussion of this bill is not new as it was introduced in our last Parliament sitting. And from that discussion, we saw how inadequate the Constitution was at the time. Inadequate in terms of how Samoa as a Christian State is not included in the body of the Constitution.

“Instead it is in the cover and the preamble of the Constitution, not within the body of the Constitution.

“This shows that it is not part of the Constitution. This does not stand in Court as it is not included in the body of the Constitution.”

Tuilaepa said he understood the main reason it wasn’t included in the body of the Constitution then was because there were no religious wars in Samoa when the Constitution was initially written. He said that perhaps our ancestors were not thinking about it at the time.

 “This means that we have been misled all these years. And every time we say that Samoa is founded on God because it is in within our Constitution, God must’ve had a good laugh and thought that we have been fooling him.

“And it has been more than 50 years since we have been fooling God, because this is not in the body of our Constitution.

“That is exactly why the 47 members of our party (H.R.P.P) have decided to review and amend the Constitution to correct this.

“The main objective of the bill is that Samoa’s religious stance as a Christian nation may be firmly enshrined in the body of the Constitution.”

With the amendment, Tuilaepa said Christianity will no longer be at the Cover or the preamble of the Constitution. Rather it will become an integral part of the body of the Constitution.

 “The phrase “Samoa is founded on God” will no longer be used. Instead, under the Constitution, it will be, “Samoa is a Christian nation founded of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Finally, Tuilaepa said that religious wars are a common occurrence throughout the world and it has resulted in some great civil wars within countries.

Therefore, it is the Government’s duty to legislate accordingly, in efforts to avoid religious tensions in the future. 

The floor was then opened to Member of Parliaments to show their views on the matter. 

First to voice an opinion was Olo Fiti Va’ai. The Opposition M.P. showed his support for the bill but proposed that the definition of the Holy Trinity be defined even further.

Second to comment on the bill was Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow, Member for Faasaleleaga No.1. She acknowledged the Cabinet for the great initiative in proposing the amendment, which will emphasise to the rest of the world that Samoa is truly founded on God. 

Gatoloaifaana suggested that perhaps the definition of “Christianity” could be expanded to include other Christian doctrines, such as the crucial belief that Jesus Christ was crucified and was later resurrected. She also believes that this will encourage the people of Samoa to put God at the forefront of their lives and to stay away from non-Christian acts.

Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, Member for Anoamaa West, also noted his support for the bill.

“But the proposed bill will not restrict other denominations from their religious practices, nor restrict them from entering the country.

“In the reality of things, it is difficult for any State to regulate its people’s religious inclinations given the ability of various denominations to easily reach the public through various technological means, and indoctrinate people.”

Member of Parliament for Alataua West, Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tuuau also raised her hand to support the bill. However she noted her concern over the possible influx of religious fanatics into the country. 

“I believe the proposed amendment is insufficient as it apparently lacks real power to limit the spread of potentially fanatical denominations within the country.

“That’s why we need to either amend the proposed Article or include an additional Article which would restrict the denominations in Samoa to ‘Christian’ denominations only.”

But M.P. for Faleata West, Lealilepule Rimoni Aiafi objected to the proposals to restrict non-Christian beliefs to come into Samoa.

“I don’t support these proposals,” said Leala. “This is a re-affirmation, to tell the world that we are a Christian nation. I don’t think we should restrict other denominations or non-Christians beliefs in Samoa.

“That will just show that we are moving backwards. We are a progressive country. 

“Tell and show the world what we are, and the best way to do it is through what we do. The country will know that we are a Christian country if we show it to them. And if they come here, they will respect that. If we also go to their country, we will also respect their religion and values.”

Leala went on to say that through the decisions the government makes for Samoa, the whole world will know that Samoa know that Samoa is a Christian country. 

“For instance if we make laws and bills, we need to make decisions that will reflect that we are a Christian country. So if other countries push us to make laws such as to allow same sex marriage, then we have to say no because that will not show that we are a Christian country. That will never happen in Samoa.”

Leala believes that we don’t need to worry about other denominations. Instead, we should focus on our own faiths and beliefs and make it strong.

“Don’t be threatened or feared by other denominations. It will show how strong our faith is if we stand firmly in our own beliefs. We just have to focus on us and show them how strong our faith is. You don’t just tell them we have faith, we show them.”

Other Members of the House noted their full support for the bill. 

Tuilaepa moved a motion for the bill to be second read, the motion was carried and the bill stands referred to the Standing Orders, Electoral, Petitions and Constitutional Offices Committee.

By Sarafina Sanerivi 26 January 2017, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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