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Local author, musician, translator… releases new book

Author Fuimaono Fini Aitaoto holds a copy of his new book

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A new book which documents significant events in the history of Christian churches in the Samoan islands and their progress since the early 21st Century, was launched recently.

Entitled "Science-Christianity and Church Activities in the Samoan Islands," it is the work of local author and musician Fuimaono Fini Aitaoto.

In an exclusive interview, Fuimaono revealed that the book is his third publication and is actually an update of the second book entitled, "Progress and Development of the Churches in the Samoan Islands: Early 21st Century,” which provided related church updates and that it is crucial to continue this almanac-style documentation.

In his latest publication, “Science–Christianity and Church Activities in the Samoan Islands,” Fuimaono delves deeper into new science discoveries as they relate to Christianity.

It provides a global view regarding Science and Christianity, directing readers to numerous resources like books, articles, papers and most recent aligned discoveries. It provides a plethora of sources and footnotes to not only validate the author’s perspectives, but mainly to provide resources to assist theological students in their studies and researchers.

His first book which documented the history of the Assembly of God Church has been used by the APTS Seminary in the Philippines in one of its Doctorate courses.

The author stated that this latest book came about because of the need to continue documenting events and progress of the churches in the Samoan islands, as there is no available literature related to the Early 21st Century.

According to Fuimaono, the book, which took about three years to research and put together, explores the relationship between Science and Christianity. He clarified that by science he meant principally, theories on the origin of the universe and new archeological discoveries related to Christianity.

He stated that in the early days of recorded history, the two were engaged in endless debate on many issues and fundamentally opposed each other.

He pointed out the historical incident of Galileo who was charged by the Catholic Church with heresy in 1663 for teaching that the Earth orbits the Sun and not the other way around.

Another example was Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution which was embraced by many scientists and academics, and condemned by Christians.

“But there are also many scientists who are Christians and they have argued that there are many ‘holes’ or inconsistencies in Darwin’s evolution theory that renders it unreliable and therefore, false,” Fuimaono explained. “However, while the two are mostly at odds with each other, science can enhance the spiritual life of believers. Christians rejoice in scientific discoveries that reveal the glory of God the Creator.”

Other issues discussed at length in the book include, culture, law, translations and climate change. Related work by Not-for-Profit Organizations, discussions on atheists, televangelists, local politics, paranormal and culture in relation to Christianity are also scrutinized.

Samoan-style Commentaries with local contexts are included, and the emerging Artificial Intelligence impacts on many aspects of life is also analyzed including its influence on local churches.

Fini Aitaoto is the sixth of eight children born to Rev. Aitaoto Seiuli Fuimaono of Apia and Salilo Apelu of Se'etaga, American Samoa.

His father graduated top of his class at Malua Theological College and was sent with his wife as missionaries to Papua New Guinea in the 1950s where they worked for many years.

He was born in Apia when his parents returned to Samoa.

Fini began his educational journey at Apia Primary School, continued at Leifiifi Intermediate then progressed to Samoa College for his high school education where he graduated in 1973.

Music was one of his early passions and having grown up in the 1970s, he was immersed in a vibrant musical era which produced iconic songs like the Eagles' 'Hotel California' and Santana's 'Black Magic Woman' among others, which he learned to play on the guitar and keyboard.

His dream to play in a band materialized after graduation when he became a member of the popular Mt. Vaea Band.

However, Fini recalled that it was when he first heard the sad news of Elvis Presley's death in 1977, that he decided to move to greener pastures in American Samoa and live with his mother's family in Se'etaga.

Arriving in the Territory, he joined the local music scene and played with renowned Samoan guitarist Harry Miller who had also relocated here, at the Pago Bar in Fagatogo, Seaside and Evelani's at Pago Pago.

After a couple of years, he left for the mainland with the goal of resuming his academic studies which had been on hold since 1973.

Subsequently, he earned a Master of Science in Environmental Management as well as various certificates from various tertiary institutions including M.I.T., Harvard, the University of Queensland and he is also a member of the CSU International Honor Society Delta Epislon Tau Society.

He also worked as a Consultant for a U.S. Federal Government fisheries program for 10 years, a former Director of two NGOs and is a licensed Translator.

Fini has been bestowed the high chiefly title of 'Fuimaono' by his father's family in the village of Salani, Falealili, which he considers a high honor and should be reciprocated by prioritizing his obligations as a matai not only to the extended family, but also as their representative in the village Fono and church affairs.

"Most Samoans believe that our culture plays a very important role in relation to the establishment of Christian churches of various denominations in villages," he stated. "There is a Samoan saying, 'E malu le Tala Lelei i le aganuu' which translates to, 'The Gospel is protected by the Samoan culture’.

"At first glance, the saying may sound controversial or even blasphemous because it implies that God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, is under the protection of a people living in a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that are mere dots on the world map!

"However, Samoans mean no disrespect when they say that. On the contrary, the clergy are treated like royalty because they are considered to be the earthly representatives of God. In fact they are referred to in Samoan oratory as, 'Ao o Fa'alupega,’ which is the highest honorary salutation accorded to an individual, higher than even the Paramount Chiefs. 

"They are the first to be acknowledged by all orators and are given the best of everything. In most villages, they live in multi-story mansions built by the parishioners under the close supervision of matai or village chiefs. 

"The parishioners take turns in feeding the pastor and his family for the first couple of months of their arrival and they receive a bi-weekly or monthly allowance (which the parishioners donate) of more than $5,000 tala tax free in Samoa. If it is a big parish, the amount can reach double figures!

"When a pastor first arrives, he is accompanied by his extended family who bring gifts and fine mats for the village council of chiefs, who officially welcome the pastor and his family with a traditional ava ceremony. This is followed by a church service led by the Elder of the district in which the parish is located, where the incoming pastor enters into a covenant with his parishioners.

"All members of the clergy regardless of their denomination, go through this initial process. Some villages have as many as five different Christian denominations and all clergy members are officially recognized by the village Fono. Whenever the Fono receives gifts in the form of foodstuffs and fine mats from any event they attend, each pastor is given a portion.

"The clergy in the Samoan islands are fully supported and protected by the traditional councils of chiefs. If a ‘Faifeau’ (Pastor) encounters any kind of problem, he can just seek their assistance and they would immediately find a way to resolve it. 

“For example, if anyone displays unbecoming or offensive behavior at the pastor's residence, he will be severely punished by the village Fono or banned from the village according to the seriousness of his offense.

“However, in reverse scenarios, clergymen have sought the forgiveness of the Fono on behalf of individuals or whole families who had been banished from the village for a serious offense, and had beseeched the pastor to intercede for them. 

"There have been instances where pastors in an act of humility, would kneel before the Fono and plead on behalf of the victim(s). This would always end in the Fono relenting and withdrawing or reducing their punishment. 

“So you see, Christianity is held in high esteem and reverence in the Samoan culture,” the author explained.

He stated that although the same cannot be said about science because of obvious events that occurred in the past, people’s mindsets are changing and some have found common ground, using science to reveal the wonders of God’s creation.

“It took 359 years for the Catholic Church to admit that Galileo’s theory that the Earth moves around the sun was in fact right,” Fuimaono pointed out. “In 1992, Pope John Paul II officially declared that Galileo was right before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

“Charles Darwin’s controversial ’Theory of Evolution’ published in 1859 although met with a lot of criticism from Christians the world over, was embraced and accepted by biologists and civilians. But through the years, scientists have found many inconsistencies and contradictions in the theory.

“Many scientists are Christians and they have proved the many discrepancies in Darwin’s theory and while Christians’ faith have been enhanced by this, those who supported Darwin are no doubt thinking that maybe the Christians are right,” Fuimaono said.

Fuimaono expressed his hope that his new book would encourage Samoan students to study in the field of science while keeping the Faith. He pointed out that Christian students are one of the groups that can fulfill this need as these islands are experiencing a serious shortage of science teachers, medical professionals, local engineers and pastors with some basic science knowledge.

The book, written in Almanac style, is published by LifeRich Publishing of Bloomington, Indiana and is available on Amazon.