Church membership in Samoa is exceptionally high, and the moral authority and community leadership of churches in society is widely recognised. The churches in Samoa therefore have enormous potential capacity to contribute proactively to social well-being. In recent years the Samoan government, the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, and the National Human Rights Institute have identified the importance of prevention initiatives on violence against women (VAW). The Samoan Government Second Progress Report 2010 has high-lighted the need to address violence against women, and identified the contribution that churches might make towards this:
The churches should be heavily in-volved in addressing violence against women. It is proposed that a special taskforce be established with all the relevant authorities to adequately analyse and determine strategic in-terventions at all levels that would address violence against women effect-tively. The involvement of key NGOs such as Samoa Victim Support as well as the National Council of Churches would play a key role in consolidating appropriate interventions that would reduce violence against women (Samoan Govt. 2010: 10).
International experience suggests that biblical texts can promote a significant difference within churches to attitudes and actions on VAW prevention. A biblical and faith-based approach is well-placed to promote social change in Samoa. Work with biblical texts is critical for two reasons. First it addresses the temptation for churches to dismiss VAW prevention as a purely secular issue which is of little concern to the churches. Second, it offers generative resources to critique ways in which churches can be part of the problem, and also support discussion of ways in which churches might take leadership as part of the solution.
There are some biblical verses that are widely used to justify or excuse violence against women. However, at the same time that the selective misuse of biblical texts contributes to the problem, there is also recognition that these interpretations should be questioned and challenged. A positive biblical message promoted by the churches can, and should, be offered as an effective response to the misuse of biblical texts. Texts that affirm the dignity and sacred value of all people, as created in the image of God, and highlight the destructive consequences that violence creates for individual, families and communities deserve particular attention.
This report is in three main sections. The first section case-studies two group bible studies developed and piloted during the project to promote a deeper discussion on Violence Against Women. The bible studies are part of a larger bible study resource, which will be available in both English and Samoan, for work in this area. The second section offers a background briefing on VAW in Samoa with particular attention to the challenges it raises for churches. The third section, emerging from the project conference in Auckland on 11 June 2018, discusses the creative approach adopted by Mercy Ah Siu Maliko in the research.