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Clergyman apologises for offence, maintains position

Father Muliau Stowers has apologised to anyone who took offence to his recent comments about sexual assault, saying they were never intended to excuse perpetrators or encourage “victim-blaming”.

"I apologise for anyone who may have felt attacked as I didn't intend to do that, it was a different intention," Fr. Stowers said in an interview with the Samoa Observer on Monday. 

But he maintained the belief that there is a valid reason not to overlook the "occasion of sin" in such cases, not just condemning the sin and sinner.

His remarks come after local women activists condemned comments made by the Catholic clergyman during a bible study aired on the Catholic channel TV4 last week.

As he was differentiating "sin" and "occasion of sin" for his audience Fr. Stowers used rape as an example. He stated it is natural for a man to be incited to forcibly demonstrate indecent acts on the opposite sex if they are at the wrong place at the wrong time or when the clothing is revealing.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer on Monday, Fr. Stowers offered his apologies to anyone who may have taken offence to his comments. 

He said his intention was never to attack women or reflect any sort of support for perpetrators of sexual assault but rather to send a message that reached young people. 

"As soon as I became Padre in 2003, I started working with the youth. And to me, my language used is such that it is easy for the youth to catch up with," he said.

"I don't want to mince words with formal Samoan language because the youth would not understand. In my deliverance, I try to pull in their attention, to make examples that are a jab to their thoughts.

"But because the example was rape... I apologise for anyone who may have felt attacked as I didn't intend to do that, it was a different intention."

He maintained that his message was more so to encourage women to have more self-respect, starting with presenting themselves properly: 

"If you don't have the respect for yourself, then you don't have the respect of others for you."

Fr. Stowers maintained that a straight forward message to young people is more effective than speaking indirectly due to cultural taboos surrounding such issues.

"It's about time we talk to address the issues we are facing, especially if we care for the youth of tomorrow. We have to address the issues for them to grow aware of what and why such incidents happen," he said.

"The example made was to distinguish the difference between a sin and occasion sin: the reason why people fall into sin or temptation. At many times we look over that, we overlook sometimes the occasion of sin, which is the reason why we sin."

Fr. Stowers in this instance used stealing as an example, saying should one's father ask for $1000 tala for a church obligation, but only get $100, in the spirit to make one's father happy, one option is to steal. 

"That is an occasion of sin; you are tempted to commit the sin," he said.

"I was talking to the simple youth, not knowledgeable people with control over their feelings and all. 

“I am just putting out an example for naive youth who are easily vulnerable to sin."

Local women activists condemned his comments saying such teachings are a setback for Samoa's efforts against "victim-blaming". 

Brown Girl Woke non-profit organisation founder and a victim of sexual violence, Maluseu Doris Tulifau said Fr. Stower's comments are the reason why there needs to be more programmes to educate Samoan men.

His comments on sexual crimes last week divided the public again after a week of unease over another church leader's comments.

Last month, the Worldwide Leader of the Samoa Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pastor Willie Papu, came under criticism for criticising other churches during a TV1 religious programme.

The television station vowed to no longer air inflammatory sermons and local church leaders apologised. 

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