What can the church do? Talk about love, teach love and give love

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It’s one of the most asked questions of today. How do we begin to address the scourge of violence, particularly family violence, in Samoa? 

During a public forum this week, the problem was labelled as a “disease” by the Chairman of the National Council of Churches, Deacon Kasiano Leaupepe. And rightly so.

It’s contagious and it is spreading fast, there is no denying the fact. You see violence, especially gender-based violence, is a lot more prevalent than we think.

The continuous state of denial by some key actors in society is not helping. We say most people still don’t recognise it as an issue and some of them think it is a part of life. Many of the victims think they deserve it while the perpetrators believe they have the right to dish it out. 

How do we overcome this? What do we do? Can it be stopped?

These questions and more were posed during the Ending Violence in Samoa (EViS) roundtable guided by the theme “Engaging with Religion and Faith-Based Actors to Address Family Violence.”

They are good questions. Ironically most of the responses were emotionally charged fuelled by denial and a strong sense of self-righteousness. 

It is not our fault, it is not our responsibility, don’t blame us, blame outside influences, blame human rights etc…

Well you can blame whatever but the problem remains that our people, especially the most vulnerable in children and women, continue to suffer. 

If our opinion was sought, we suggest that one of the simplest solutions is to talk about love, promote love, give and receive love.

We’ve said this before in a previous editorial. The simple truth is violence cannot be the answer to violence. Hate and anger will also not help us get anywhere. You see to neutralise the power of anything; we are called to use the strength of something that is its complete opposite. 

And we know violence is driven by anger, rage, bitterness and hate harboured over time that can no longer be contained. But love, compassion, care and being kind can go a long way towards solving our problems. 

Think of it this way, would the perpetrators of violence have acted the way they do if they were shown love and felt loved in the first place? 

Would they have continued in their ugly ways if they had not been hurt, abused and subjected to the vicious violent cycle in the past?

We know countless studies have identified that hurt people will go on to hurt other people. The same goes for people who are angry, bitter and full of resentment. But imagine how things could be different if we lived in a community where love becomes the norm? Where respect, care and kindness are encouraged as opposed to hate and anger?

Of course it’s easier said than done. 

Still we remain hopeful. That hope is deeply rooted in the fact that as a Christian country, one of the most basic principles of Jesus Christ’s teachings is to love one another – including our enemies, believe it or not.

The question was asked, what can the church do? 

Well as one of the most powerful institutions in Samoa, it can do a lot. But one of its core functions is to encourage people to live a Christ-like life. That’s what the word Christianity means; it means people who want to live like Christ. One of the most important characteristics of Jesus Christ is love. 

This is the answer to our problems. You don’t hit someone you love. You don’t cheat on your spouse if you love them. You don’t lie to someone you love. We can go on but you get the message.

When it comes to the church, it needs to show its members love. Showing love is not demanding more money from people who don’t have any money to give. Love is not shaming them into giving. Love is when the Pastors go out to help their members who are suffering. It is when the food that is rotting in the congregation’s freezer is shared with church members who are hungry. It’s when the Pastor cares enough to take the time to talk to an abusive husband or wife. 

Now what is Biblical love?

 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud,” the scriptures spell out. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Perhaps this is what the church should be talking more about when it comes to creating a theology to deal with family violence. Rather than continuing to magnify the problem, it’s time we magnify the solution. Love we know is one of the most profound and powerful forces in the world today. And it can turn things around.

This is what every parent should be teaching their young boys. This is what every church should be talking to their church members about. This is what the matai leadership in villages should be discussing.

We need to hammer this message home when it comes to relationships, whether its between husbands and wives, parents and children, villages and churches and so forth. What do you think?

Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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