“MORAL COURAGE AND TOFA ALOFA”
I have been following the Samoa election and post elections with great interest and concern. With multiple perspectives judging the actions surrounding the controversies, the most compelling perspective I found personally moving was delivered unequivocally from a sermon by the Archbishop of the Catholic Church, The Most Reverend Alapati Lui Mataeliga, at mass on Monday. He stood squarely in the road for something greater than himself, voicing his concern and willingness to march with prayer and hymn to stop the Human Rights Protection Party-led caretaker Government and its leadership from stoking the country’s constitutional crisis, warning that the country will slide into a dictatorship if not stopped.
If anything, his sermon served as a reminder that effective leadership starts with moral courage.
All of us have values, but the defining feature of moral courage is to have the courage to live one’s values even in the face of tremendous pressure. While most of us struggle with doing what is right in each situation, a few among us do not hesitate. They move confidently forward with their values as their guiding light that shapes their lives.
There is a compelling group of such individuals who fit this description, who include Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III who had the moral courage to stand against the injustice of the status quo.
Of particular note, given the current events in Samoa, I am particularly Inspired by Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III, his Christian beliefs, passionate commitment to traditional customs and culture of Samoa. Lealofi III became one of the first leaders of the 20th century to employ nonviolent resistance against colonial rule, which laid the foundations for Samoa's successful campaign and independence in 1962. May his spirit and those of the heroic leaders of the Mau, prevail.
These people put themselves in harm’s way physically and emotionally, all the while knowing that their very reputations and life were at risk in the face of enormous pressure to comply. Their actions and courage ensured that humanity acted morally. Without them, so many things would not have changed in this world; so many wrongs would continue to prosper.
The power of Alofa can move one to the heights of compassion and care for others whereby even one’s life is subordinate to its calling. What better example than Jesus Christ continuing to follow his faith, beliefs, and mission despite being hanged on a cross, brutally beaten, and attacked. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, John 15:13 expresses such a sacrifice and sentiment for all time.
Physical acts of courageous accomplishment, and praise are always noted; however, in moral courage, the price that is paid is always high, and there may be no praise for months, years or a lifetime.
Many choose the path of least resistance because they fear the retribution, the criticism, and the alienation of others. They are not loyal to anyone or anything, which is a key element to having moral courage, a loyalty to one’s values; to those you work with and to those you serve each day. The true value is found in those that have the dreams to build new possibilities, not those that can simply tear down dreams.
From that loyalty, trust is born and from trust, one builds a reputation of integrity and being trustworthy. This begins the journey of having a sense of self and that while they do not stand for everything, they stand for something of value.
This builds a foundation for seeing the world not framed for ourselves, but for the potential that exists to be of service to others. That requires use of the best of what we have learned from our ancestors and practiced for a lifetime: our traditional tofa’s and values, our loyalty, integrity, trustworthiness and moral courage guided and sustained by ‘Tofa Alofa’, wisdoms of love. Fa’afetai, Most Reverend Alapati Lui Mataeliga for the reminder. May our people, be guided by your wisdom and example of our ancestors.
Papalii Dr. Failautusi Avegalio