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Christian Faith and Family Violence: A Report for Samoan Communities in New Zealand

Ah Siu-Maliko Cover Page of ReportRead the Report

Download the new report by Dr Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko on Christian Faith and Family Violence: A Report for Samoan Communities in New Zealand or download the Executive Summary.  You can also download the report in Samoan.
Faitau i le ripoti na saunia e Dr Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko Fa’atuatuaga Kerisiano ma Sauaga i totonu o Aiga: Ripoti mo Tagata Lautele o Samoa i Niusila​.

Meet the Researcher

Photo of Mercy Ah Siu-MalikoDr. Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko was born and raised in Samoa before moving to Auckland in the mid 1980s. She holds a BA and a Bachelor of Theology (BTh) from the University of Auckland, and a Master of Theology (MTh) from the Pacific Theological College in Suva, Fiji. In 2010 she was awarded the University of Otago Pacific Islands Doctoral Scholarship, and in 2014 she was granted a Postgraduate Publishing Bursary. In May 2015 she was awarded a PhD in Theology from Otago, for research on Public Theology, Core Values and Domestic Violence in Samoan Society. She currently works as a postdoctoral fellow for the Centre of Theology and Public Issues. Her most recent publication is “A Public Theology Response to Domestic Violence in Samoan Society,” in International Journal of Public Theology, 10 (2016): 54–67.

Project Introduction

Domestic violence is a serious social problem in Samoan communities. Some studies have suggested that nearly half of Samoan women have been subject to abuse by intimate partners or parents. The increase in cases of domestic violence in Samoa and the diaspora is slowly raising the public’s awareness of its impacts on the victims, who are overwhelmingly women and children. Because it is such a serious and growing social problem, it is a priority for theological reflection. Several unique cultural factors impinge on such reflection. On the one hand, 99.7% of Samoa’s population belong to a church; Samoa’s cultural values have over time become grounded in the Christian faith; those who assume leadership roles on both local and national levels are also leaders in the church and vice versa; and Samoa’s constitution is ostensibly based on Christian principles. Yet the irony is that it is in this overtly Christian context that domestic violence proliferates.

This project by Dr. Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko makes available a set of web-based resources which address the problem of domestic violence in Samoa, and explore a constructive Christian response based on Samoan cultural values. We hope the resources will be of use to church members in Samoa (laity and clergy), and member of Samoan churches in Aotearoa New Zealand. In addition, we hope that the resources will be of interest to a wider Pacific constituency, in New Zealand and in Pacific Islands, and to other churches and agencies working on domestic violence.

Key Project Events and Outcomes in 2016

9-10 June Conference presentation in Wellington
Presentation on ‘Christianity as a development force in unmasking domestic violence in Oceania’ at the conference ‘Woven Together? Christianity and Development between New Zealand and the Pacific' at Victoria University Wellington, 9-10 June.  Mercy's presentation was featured by Radio NZ and you can read or listen to Mercy's interview with Radio NZ here

19-24 June Conference presentation in Suva
Presentation on ‘Fetausia’i (Reciprocal Caring) as a Relational Hermeneutical Approach for Gender Equality in Pacific Churches’ at the conference ‘Relational Hermeneutics and Reshaping the Pacific from the Ground-Up’, Pacific Theological College, Suva, Fiji.

21 August Launch of the Report (English version
Launch of the report at First Church of Otago during a Forum on Family Violence.

13 September Roundtable Discussion
Organised a roundtable discussion on the report hosted by the Ministry for Women in Wellington, for representatives from churches, agencies, and government.

9 December Publication of the Report (Samoan version)

Other Available Resources

WEAVERS, The Church and Violence against Women

Mercy’s earlier work on domestic violence in the Pacific included time working for a regional ecumenical organisation, the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools (SPATS), as a coordinator for one of their programmes in 2005 and 2006. SPATS is “a network of theological institutions, lecturers and students as a community of faith who share information, fellowship (and) resources in God’s mission through theological education.” Its main objective is to strengthen the mission of theological education in the Pacific Islands churches by developing and maintaining high standards of mutual cooperation so as to further quality education and leadership training. Mercy was the coordinator of Weavers, an advocacy programme designed to promote theological education for women across the Pacific region. This programme also addressed social issues affecting the lives of Pacific Islander women. One of the issues it targeted was violence against women. In order to raise people’s consciousness on this issue, it held forums and workshops to promote dialogue and action about the realities surrounding violence against women, and violence in general, in the Pacific. These forums included representatives from theological schools, churches, Pacific communities, as well as experts in the field. The final product of these consultations and meetings was a theological education course book (2006) about violence against women in Pacific societies, as well as recommendations regarding the role of the church in preventing and responding to this widespread social problem. All member theological schools of SPATS were asked to include this course in their curriculum as a sign of their solidarity with women. We are grateful to SPATS for permission to make it available here for wider use as part of this project.

'Public Theology, Core Values and Domestic Violence in Samoan Society'

In 2015 Mercy completed a PhD in theology at the University of Otago. The purpose of this research was to formulate a theologically coherent perspective on the complex social and moral questions facing contemporary Samoan society. It does so by constructing a contextual Samoan public theology, based on the core Samoan- Christian values of alofa (love), fa’aaloalo (respect), soalaupule (consensual dialogue), tautua (selfless service) and amiotonu (justice). Drawing on scholarship on public theology, as well as relevant interdisciplinary sociological, cultural and religious studies, the thesis examines the nature and constituent elements of public theology, both in the West and in Samoa. To construct a framework for a public theology for Samoa based on its core values, the study examines the significance of the fa’asamoa (Samoan way of life) and its value system. Key to this framework is an understanding of the fusion between Samoan values and Christian values.

Project Funding

The project is funded by a grant from the Wesleydale Trust and a grant from the Deepsight Trust.

Contact Information

Dr Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko, email: mercy.maliko@otago.ac.nz

Prof David Tombs, email: david.tombs@otago.ac.nz