Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Samoa Part 2: History I

Approximately 14 degrees south of the equator lies the Samoan archipelago, a total of 14 islands with 9 bearing inhabitants. Once called the Navigator Islands, the Samoan islands are now split between two political jurisdictions: Samoa and American Samoa.

Sometime in the seventeen hundreds white Europeans made their first contact with the Samoans of Tutuila, now in American Samoa. Due to some misunderstanding some of the Frenchmen and Samoans died in a scuffle. Because of this incident at what is now called "Massacre Bay", European explorers largely avoided Samoa until 1830 when John Williams. a missionary from the London Missionary Society (LMS), landed at Sapapalii, Savaii to introduce Christianity to Samoa.

Williams received a warm welcome by Malietoa Vaiinupo an important chief vying to become king over all the islands. Malietoa likely saw many advantages to accepting the white missionary's message as the Samoans associated material prosperity with the new Christian faith. Soon most of Malietoa's followers converted to the LMS brand of Christianity.

Some time after Williams' arrival in the islands, Wesleyan (Methodist) missionaries from neighboring Tonga found success amongst the rivals of Malietoa Vaiinupo. The Catholics soon followed and labored to establish themselves in some Samoan societal niche.

As each successive Christian sect arrived, persecution from the "older, established" sects was heaped upon the missionaries and new converts. But Samoans are known for their firmness and tenacity and the fledgling congregations grew until the whole of the population had been evangelized by these three Christian sects: LMS, Methodist, and Catholic.

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