2013 Christmas Message from the Head of State of Samoa

APIA: TUESDAY 24 DECEMBER 2013: This year I see the message of Christmas in the way a mother fusses, carries, nurses, nurtures and / or protects her newborn child. In Samoan this is traditionally called fa’afailele where the love of a mother for the newborn child was considered one of the highest measures of human love.

With the love of his mother a child was secure in the knowledge that he or she was protected from harm and would be loved unconditionally. With this kind of love the child would grow and fly.

Like trees and human beings the fa’afailele concept has grown to also include as metaphor the nurturing love and guidance of fathers and other family members, of pastors and teachers, even expanding to include the wise leadership and vision of central governing bodies or persons.

In reflecting on the origins and development of the word fa’afailele this Christmas, I am reminded that in our Samoan reference we share with the Christians a belief that the ultimate image of human love lies and care of a mother for her newborn child.

In the story of Christmas the Magi or Wise Men, who came from afar to worship the newborn King, were generous and faithful in their mission. They knew that the newborn child, Jesus, was a gift not just to his parents or to Israel but to the whole world.

As the world watched with sadness and pride the ebbing tide of Nelson Mandela’s life and mission this year, it also in turn witnessed the rise of Poe Francis. Like the Wise Men, Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis share a commitment to the message of Christmas: the message of hope, birth, renewal and salvation.

Nelson Mandela’s mission in life was to nurture a spirit of democracy, freedom and unity for South Africans and for all people. He was a political prisoner for 27 years and incarcerated on Robben Island for 18 years. When he was finally released he greeted South Africans in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all.

But he knew that the only way to bring peace in South Africa would be through leadership that showed true humility, forgiveness and remorse. South Africa today is a nation redeemed by a man and his vision.

As the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s presidency ended after only one term because of a desire to spend more time with his family. While it is not easy to turn your back on taking front row command of a political vision that had been nurtured for so many years and by so many, the fa’afailele of family draws a power of its own.

Pope Francis urges for a similar process of fa’afailele for the Church. The care and love that a mother gives her newborn child is the same he expects the church to give to the vulnerable. He preached the importance of an inclusive church that is welcoming of all God’s children regardless of class, race, gender, age or sexual differences. He believes in an inclusive church that gives solace and inspiration to all. He encourages people to get out and meet and spend quality time with one another. He demands address of poverty and corruption. When Pope Francis was asked a sensitive question, he responded that the most important issue is how to identify and locate love.

To underline his message of love, Pope Francis left the luxury of the Papal apartments to live more humbly in a guesthouse. He writes letters and returns telephone calls himself to members of his church who have reached out to him for pastoral guidance. By example Pope Francis shows us that one can hold high office and still live and lead humbly and with conviction.

The great challenge of our day is how we can bring the love and vision of fa’afailele to our families, our villages, government and churches? The gift of a love that is akin to that which a mother gives to her newborn child.

Let us share in the joy of their gifts this Christmas by giving thanks to God for the fa’afailele of our mothers, our families and our leaders.

Merry Christmas!

Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi
Head of State of Samoa


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