APIA, 19 MAY 2016 (SAMOA OBSERVER/RNZI) – The National Council of Churches (NCC) in Samoa has welcomed Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s call to review the religious freedom provisions of the Constitution.
Tuilaepa had indicated last week that the country’s supreme law could be changed to recognise Christian principles and teachings, not just in the preamble.
But 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, saying it poses a threat to the country.
“We are not going too far, no,” said Reverend Motu.
“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 Constitution protects the right to practice any religion but doesn’t rule out the establishment of an official state religion.
A New Zealand academic says calls to ban Islam in Samoa are based on reasonable fears, given what has happened in other countries.
While some have put the comments down to ignorance and a lack of inter-faith dialogue, Professor Rex Ahdar 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”.
Rex Ahdar said he had met the leader of the mosque in Samoa who he described as a ‘good bloke’.
Muslims, he explained, generally lived harmoniously in the community.
Christianity is the major religion in most Pacific Island countries.
Meanwhile, dialogue with other religions is key to harmony in any society.
Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) general Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, made the comment after calls in Samoa for a ban on Islam.
Samoa Council of Churches General secretary, Reverend Ma’auga Motu, said the country’s constitution must more clearly recognise Christianity and that Islam should be banned.
He said Islam posed a threat, despite only 0.03 per cent of the country professing to be Muslim at the 2001 census.
But Pihaatae said there must be a definite move towards 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.”
Pihaatae said Muslims made peaceful contributions to many Pacific countries.