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No ban, but church wants less gift giving

Gift giving stays despite calls from church ministers at the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa Annual Conference to ban what is commonly called ‘faalavelave’.CCCS Chairman Reverend Elder Tavita Roma said at the conference held in Malua last week that“taiga sua is not banned.”A term from traditional high oratory, taiga sua is customary practice.Last week, debate ended with the ministers concluding that “ceremonial gifts” can still be given but to “bring it down”, says Rev. Roma.Asked to elaborate the Chairman says it “means that it is not stopped but to bring it down to a level where people are not under pressure.“We don’t want people to suffer so it needs to be brought down to lighten their burden.”Samoa residents donate millions of tala to churches each year, with new church openings a frequent occurrence.Last week, some church ministers called for traditional gifting to be banned.A church elder told the delegates at the annual conference this “is the very reason that causes people to struggle.”“We should stop taiga sua to avoid the heavy burden on people,” said an elder minister.“If we take these gifts off we would feel a lot cooler and relaxed.”Traditional or customary gift giving as part of church gatherings is a factor forcing people into poverty and church ministers should take the lead in discouraging this practice, said another reverend.In support he reminded the church leaders of their role in taking the lead by example.“Let it not be us that encourage this…there should be no more traditional ceremonial gifts.“We should lighten the burden on our traditional notions.”Under fa’alavelave custom, family and friends are expected to donate money, food and artefacts during a wedding, funeral or other significant occasions.As previously reported, talk of a ban follows debate between government and the opposition over whether or not Samoa is showing signs of recession and poverty.Few churches declare annual income but a Samoa Observer story from 2008 reported that deposits at one church were over $16 million.