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Dear Editor,

An immigrant family has been torn apart and their lives are now held in limbo while the wheels of justice turn. The pride of a village has been injured. Affected hurt clans, families and like-minded friends have closed ranks. (See SN LTE for details)

Outside of these formidable human fortresses and barricades huddles a lone family. An ordinary family who had the heart and compassion to open their home to shelter an immigrant family seeking help and protection

This hosting family, who wept after hearing the reason of their seeking refuge, with tears and a deep sense of sorrow, and dread because they are related to the alleged offender. Yet compassion and mercy outweighed the risks of being threatened, terrorized and hunted down either physically or via social media-Facebook.

Thrown at the victims and hosting family, FB is being riddled by spears, burning weapons of threats and hate. Weapons to provoke and bully. Weapons to dislodge a person’s trust in justice and faith in God.

As the advocate who is standing and walking with these families, and for the sake of peace, I ask my family and friends to not respond to these FB comments or attacks. But let us fortify our stand against child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Let us fortify ourselves against injustices, slavery and cruelty against humanity.

In all my years as a victim advocate, my biggest challenge is: Am I, willing to help those in need for justice? Am I, willing to go up against my family, village, church and government for a victim who seeks justice?  Am I, willing to reach out and pull someone out of the darkness despite the risks of being treated like a public leper?

We have no money, power, authority or connections. I have no office, staff, high power or political support. We look to our government to protect us. Our sole covering is our faith in God to lead, support, comfort, provide and protect us.

My village of Leone; family, people and church have the freedom to their opinions and to whom they wish to support; but I ask you to turn our attention to doing what is right.

Let us do a new thing by supporting and helping those who struggle to do what is right. If we love our family, village and culture, doing what is right will only strengthen what many of us feel and know.

According to the allegations; our captains and navigators are causing our fleet of canoes to capsize and sink. Our vaai-tau/ lookout-weatherman is deliberately reading the wrong signs.

What is this new-thing? Ragged, no account, subservient, domestic immigrants have desperately escaped the only life they knew since 2009. The victims surrendered their lives and futures to strangers for help. A humble common family opened up their home to shelter this pitiful family out of love and compassion. Now this Leone family is being hounded like criminals via cyber-bullying.

This situation will challenge the true meaning of Fa'a Samoa. Will a village full of proud and prominent high chiefs acknowledge the sticky situation or attempt to uproot the victims and banish them from the village?

Will the clergy use the pulpit to further the victimization by accusing the victims of ungodly, sinful disobedience and rebelliousness against the head of the family?

Will they step in to safeguard victims of violence, allowing them safe protection or sanctuary while they go through due-process?

Will the spirit of alofa and Samoan hospitality prevail?

I knew it would be tough for me to advocate for a Filipino. But it's 5 times worse to advocate for these victims from our own sister islands Savai’i and Upolu.

Ipu Avegalio Lefiti

Advocate Against Family Violence and Human trafficking