Today is a very special day. For thousands of children across Samoa, White Sunday is an occasion to behold. And rightly so.
You see, it’s great to be able to celebrate our children now and then. And today is one of those days where the young ones are given the best of everything – including the rare privilege of leading Sunday worship, preaching and having their meals served before the adults.
For many of them, toanai (Sunday lunch) cannot come soon enough especially after weeks and months of rehearsals to perfect those tauloto (memory verses), songs and skits. White Sunday is a great occasion. One for the entire family to sit down, enjoy and appreciate the young ones for who they are.
But there is more to this day than just food, memory verses and quality time. It is also an opportunity to pause, reflect and assess where we are going.
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 the leadership of this country. We’re talking about the growing number of cases of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional - involving children.
People can lie to us, we can also lie to others but we simply cannot lie to ourselves. And that’s because God almighty created each and every one of us with a conscience so that no matter what we do or what form we try to disguise our motives; it will always be revealed one way or another.
And if we really care about our children, then something has got to be done about the scourge of sexual, physical abuse and domestic violence that has become a real menace in society.
Why must we talk about this on White Sunday?
If we really care about our children, we must create a safe environment for them to grow up in and allow them to flourish so they can fulfill their God-given purposes. A child brought up under the depressing environment of abuse, sexual or physical and in a home where domestic violence is the norm, faces enormous obstacles in terms of fulfilling his/her potential. It stifles their growth.
It goes without saying that violence – especially the sort perpetrated against innocent women and children at the hands of husbands, fathers and men who are entrusted to protect them - is a menace we can definitely do without.
The fact is we’ve known for sometime now that domestic violence is a huge problem. And while as a community we’ve taken several steps to advance the fight against domestic violence, we acknowledge that we still have a long, long way to go.
For the past three weeks, the Commission of the National Inquiry into Family Violence has been hearing testimonies and stories about the extent of the problem at the T.A.T.T.E. Building and in Savaii. One thing was again made quite clear is that domestic violence is “widespread, systemic and entrenched.”
In the words of the Chairman of the Inquiry, Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma, he said: “The time has come for the Samoan community, our community to face squarely the fact that the Samoan home/ is not the safe place it is supposed to be by virtue of the cultural and Christian values we claim to cherish.”
“We hope in this national conversation to gain some understanding of what it is we have been doing, or are doing/ that has landed us in the fix we are in. As an enlightened Christian society, we must endeavor to zero in on these things with meaningful strategies to rid ourselves of them.”
From our perspective, the Inquiry is extremely important and timely.
We acknowledge the government and all the partners involved and we certainly look forward to the next step. We say this because we know this is an issue that will not be solved overnight.
Domestic violence, sexual abuse and other problems the Inquiry is working to address are complex matters. That’s because we pretend it doesn’t exist and we are dealing with attitudes and mindsets that have taken years to develop.
It will take time to undo these attitudes and unlearn these mindsets.
Where do we begin?
Start in our homes. Charity begins at home and it starts by bringing up our children the way they should be taught. This is why we need to think about these issues today on White Sunday. This has everything to do with the protection of these children when they grow up. Our young daughters today will become victims tomorrow if we don’t act now. Our sons, if they are not taught at an early age, will become perpetrators tomorrow.
As a nation, we need to bring up our children the way God wants us to. And that is to love, respect and say no to inflicting violence on another human being at all cost. Think about it.
Happy White Sunday Samoa, God bless!