Samoa a Christian country – PM calls for constitution review

Samoa’s ruling party is considering constitutional amendments so Christian principles, values, culture and traditions are legally recognised.

This after the office of the prime minster has been advised that Islamic extremists could cause future instability.

Muslims accounted for 0.03 percent of the population at the 2001 census.

At present there is a small muslim population in Samoa that gathers at a mosque.

In 1986, the Samoan Muslims established the Western Samoa Muslim League.

A blog posted in 2001 said president was Mohammed Daniel Stanley a.k.a. Mohammed Bin Yahya a.k.a. Laulu Dan Stanley.

He was at that time 64 years old and a well known accountant and auditor who operates his own accounting firm.

Stanley had one room of his house at Vaiusu Village, which is located next to Apia, as an Islamic Centre and a mosque.

The Islamic activities involved general teaching of Islam and nightly Qur’anic lessons and the Friday prayers.

The constitution protects the right to practice any religion but doesn’t rule out the establishment of an official state religion.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said the country’s constitution may be changed to recognise Christian principles and teachings, not just in the preamble.

Presently, the Christian references are only in the preamble and are not part of Samoa’s law.

Tuila’epa says the proposed amendments will also look into religious practices.

The prime minister revealed the constitutional move at the 50th anniversary celebrations for the National Council of Churches.

He said Samoa is a Christianity-based country and that goes together with Samoan cultures and traditions.

Academics not in agreement

Professor Iati Iati from the University of Otago said the pervasiveness of Christianity in Samoa was one of the reasons for the country’s stability, and the faith is fully integrated into the political and cultural structures.

But he said Samoa would be treading down a dangerous path to ban other faiths.

“I think the writers of the Samoa constitution were wise beyond their years and I don’t think the government should be meddling with the constitution. I think it’s pretty good as it is.”

Dr John Shaver from the University of Otago says calls in Samoa to ban Islam stem from a lack of personal experience and ignorance fuelled by media stereotypes.

He said that in places where minority groups were that small, it was easy for ignorance to spread.

“The problem is a lack of information and when your personal experiences don’t often lead you to interactions with peaceful muslims then you rely on the media.”

“And we know that positive examplars of minority groups in the media are capable of reducing prejudice.”

Professor Rex Ahdar from the University of Otago said the Christian churches in Samoa were simply looking to “protect their turf”.

“And they harbour genuine fears, and let’s face it, they’re not totally without some foundation, fears about the growth of Islam which they’ve seen in other countries around the world including in the west,” he said.

“Now you might say well that’s just fair competition, shouldn’t they have to compete in the religious marketplace like anyone else, but again like good monopolists, sorry to use all this economic analysis, they’re protecting their market share.”

Samoa Council of Churches calls for total ban on Islam

The Secretary General of the Samoa Council of Churches, Reverend Ma’auga Motu, said he would go a step further and ban the religion of Islam.

He said even though most Samoans are Christian, Islam poses a future threat to the country.

“We are not going too far, no,” Reverend Motu said.

“We are still wanting our own people to be prevented from this kind of influence, even though there are so many people who are good people but still there are some dangerous people among them who might come and threaten our peace.”

The Pacific Conference of Churches calls for dialogue

The General Secretary of the PCC, the region’s grouping of Christian denominations, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, argued that the focus needs to be on dialogue.

“To create first that space where everybody can come in and discuss and dialogue,” he said.

“But they have the right to do the decision but before that we have to first look at what our faith, as Christians, is telling us.”

Additional reading

News category: Asia Pacific.

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