Monday, March 15, 2010


Today's worrying news: the Samoan government has established a Commission of Inquiry to review freedom of religion.

As the RNZI article notes, freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Samoan Constitution, and by the ICCPR, to which Samoa is a party. But it is not widely respected. In addition to government-mandated religious indoctrination in schools, there is also a significant problem of local village matai using their powers to punish and victimise those who do not conform to the predominant local faith. In one recent example, a Seventh Day Adventist man was banned from his village for holding prayer services at his house (the story also notes that his house was burned down by the village in 2000 over the issue). Other villages prohibit conversion in an effort to maintain the power of the monopoly faith.

According to the RNZI story, the government has established the inquiry at the behest of local Christians, and that is concerned about challenges to village authority and "other religions, yet to arrive in Samoa, which strongly advocate beliefs that are contrary to Christianity" - which suggests the review is aimed at repealing freedom of religion and establishing a formal, legal, Christian theocracy. And that would be a very worrying step indeed.