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Government, church leaders take Tonga backward

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


Bakeries closure on Sundays takes us back to a 400 years old question of Church and State working hand in hand to control commerce, and people’s liberty. In Tonga's case, government has forgotten its pledges to improve the economy and "eradicate hunger".

Thus, it is apparent that the Minister of Police has the authority to loosen the Sabbath Law for bakeries to be opened on Sundays, as did his practical predecessors for the last 30 years. But pressured by Christian church leaders, Minister Tu’i’onetoa fearing for his own salvation in the after life, has also agreed to deliver salvation for all Tongans by compulsory fiat.  

Historical reminders

We are reminded that the 16th century “Reformation” movement by Martin Luther, and John Calvin in Europe, was against the overbearing power of the Church and government over the political lives of the people. Particularly, the movement was against the powerful political might of the Roman Catholic Pope, who was also a most powerful authority for the State government. 

The same problem was also seen in 19th century Utah Territory (USA) where Mormon President Brigham Young was also elected Governor. Brigham Young and other LDS presidents had to be removed, or kept away from the governorship of the Territory before Utah was admitted to become a State in the United States of America. 

Protestantism was instrumental in separating Church and State authorities, who were using religion to drive the “fear of God” upon people’s secular lives.

Tongan Church

In Tonga, the 19th century persecutions, imprisonment, and deportation of Wesleyan Church followers by King George Tupou I, and Prime Minister Shirley Baker, is another example of Church and State misusing their religious and political powers. 

Today, Church leaders and Minister of Police Põhiva Tu’i’onetoa are once again working together with the same dictatorial authority. They want total control of people’s lives to include guaranteeing their salvation in the after life − by keeping the Sabbath "holy".

In practice, the poor people of Tonga are disadvantaged the most. Bread is the most affordable food product for the masses worldwide. For the Tongan stable diet, a basket of tapioca costs $10-15 at the marketplace; two loaves of bread at the bakeries can be had for $3. Costs for extras go up proportionately according to each family size. But for the poor, a loaf of bread fills a lot more stomachs for the money spent than root crops. Furthermore, bread has more nutritional ingredients than a tapioca root alone.


Minister Tu’i’onetoa has declared that “nobody will die from not eating bread for one day.” That is government authoritative arrogance, lecturing people on what is good for them. But since he has a job that buys him enough groceries to feed his family three meals a day, he forgets that poor people could hardly feed their families on one meal a day. 

Until Min. Tu’i’onetoa, and his colleagues in Parliament - who are also out-of-touch with the poor because of their fat salaries - can improve the economy for the poor folks to be employed, they cannot dictate to them how to feed their families. The King’s speech on opening Parliament challenged legislators to improve the economy. I don’t see shutting down bakeries and laying off workers contribute to the improvement of the economy.

Minister Tu’i’onetoa also declared there’s exception to trading on Sunday, “but only in times of natural disasters.” Again, such insensitive bureaucratic comments show how out-of-touch Min. Tu’i’onetoa and his Church leaders are with poor people.

Hunger is a daily natural disaster for the poor. Keeping bakeries open on Sundays alleviates poor people’s hunger because they can afford a loaf of bread at $1.50 each.  While Min. Tu’i’onetoa can treat his family to an expensive hotel restaurant (allowed to remain open) on Sundays, the poor folks need their bakeries open where they could buy affordable pastries to give their families, a nice Sunday dinner.

Sione A. Mokofisi, MBA
Moana Unitech, Haveluloto, Tongatapu


Sione you darken the issue, the issue is not the bread, the Sabbath is the issue. What do you think Sione? Shall we continue with keeping the Sabbath Day Holy or we do trade on Sunday in Tonga? I believe you know something about Utah state, do you? Utah is my home, visit us someday to see the vision of Brigham Young, I assure you, your perspective will orbit the universe wondering why Sabbath Day is important to us, it is a gift. Sabbath is for men .... You see, Tupou 1 doesn't have MBA but he saw the same vision as Brigham Young. My grandma from Pangai said to me yesterday "'Umu to'o kutu is now back to the house of our Island grandson, same with bread." Good to know.

Even if Tonga closes bakeries on Sunday they are not keeping the Sabbath. Tonga is far from following biblical Sabbath Law. Don't get me wrong, I am not proposing that we follow Old Testament Sabbath Law. But if Tonga wants to live under Sabbath Law then do so...but do not pretend that we are anywhere close to doing so by closing bakeries on Sunday.
We drive to church on Sunday...that breaks Sabbath Law.
Our women and children often work very hard to prepare meals on Sundays...that breaks sabbath law.
We use electricity...that breaks Sabbath Law.
We start fires on the Sabbath....that breaks Sabbath Law.
The list can go on and on....and the list can be readily found in Leviticus. If Tonga wants to live under Sabbath Law then do so, but do not parade around like the Pharisees of the New Testament acting like this extra layer of "works" makes you one bit holier when in fact you are still breaking the law. Remember "if you've broken one part of the law you have broken it all." Are you sure you want to try to earn salvation?
Is it good to keep the Sabbath? Of course, it is. We need rest. Does closing my business on Sunday help me get to Heaven? No. Not according to the Bible.

Mālō Nu’anga for trying… You can pick your issue, but you may not know that my letter is in essay format about (a) Church and State immoral collusion power; (b) historical references illustrate the evil of Church and State collusion; (c) Tonga’s poor (unemployed) people are forced to go hungrier by the reversal of the Sabbath Law.

(a) The evil conflict of interest in Church and State collusion did not hold political and religious leaders responsible for ignoring the rule of law. Many illegal acts were done in the name of the Pope, and were excused in Europe. The Utah “Mountain Meadows Massacre” in 1857, 120 people killed was blamed on Brigham Young’s leadership, although he did not take part in the massacre.

(b) Today we are the beneficiaries of “separation of Church and State” from the “Reformation” movement. Obviously you’re enjoying American separation of Church of State living in Utah as part of the U.S.A. Although Brigham Young wanted a “theocracy form of government” (religious), the United States of America requires a democratic type of government without religious rule.

(b) While you respect keeping the Sabbath holy, you cannot stop people who have the free agency to do their trade on Sunday in Utah. Why can’t Tongans have the same right in Tonga? Good that you like “to’okutu” but that’s your choice. Modern Tongans like to have the freedom to eat bread because it is easier to buy at the store, and cheaper, too. They’re tired of eating “manioke” 7-days a week.

Hope you mean what you quoted, “Sabbath is for men…” compared to “Men for the Sabbath” as Jesus said in the Bible. - Sione A. Mokofisi

Tonga cannot separate religion from state as the Two Olive branches in our national emblem. is simple "Secularism cannot be a solution for countries with a Christian majority or even a sizeable minority, for it requires people to replace their God-given beliefs with an entirely different set of man-made beliefs" So, Sabbath is a day for Tonga to do god works as I mentioned earlier "Sabbath is for men...we all have agency to choose but free to choose the right that is leadership.US doesnt want to build the foundation of their government on Religion they are British knowing what happened in Europe as Sione mentioned but Tongan government fooundation was on X-tianity that is who we are; by keeping Sabbath Holy is a very small thing but small things will bring to pass greater things. Hope we will not clear the flies and swallow the camel.

Still missing the point. Tonga is not keeping the Sabbath-even if we close bakeries. We are all living in pretend-world if we think we come even close to keeping the Sabbath "holy" here in Tonga. To believe that statement you are ignoring many "unholy" things which happen every Sunday in Tonga. Again I do not say these things to advocate for stricter Sabbath Laws but rather to emphasize the fact laid out clearly in the New Testament: Old Testament Law taught Israel that they could not follow the Law!!
Closing bakeries on Sunday does not equate to us keeping the Sabbath least not according to the Bible. Which begs the question: "Have we replaced the teachings of God with the traditions of man?"

And hopefully no one here actually believes that we behave or act anything like a "Christian nation". Domestic violence, drug abuse, sexual abuse, homosexuality, cross dressing, corruption, violence, theft, cheating, lying, adultery...every one of these things are rampant in this "Christian nation".

Thank you Frank for pointing these things out. These are obviously ignored by the church as their first priority is to fund raise as much as they can. It's rather sad that the church can raise funds from all walks of life but cannot establish a social program to help those in need. These are the same church leaders that travel overseas and have a kapainu he sapate with no objection at all. Talk about hypocrites.

A stricter Tongan - Christian state will not represent Christianity, it will represent whichever churches are in the majority, and will end up making religious laws and force the rest to comply.

A false belief is that Tonga needs to be a Christian state, mixing religion and state, to protect its Christian traditions, when in fact a "Christian state" is more dangerous to Christian beliefs, because it will end up removing freedoms of individuals. Our Christian traditions will be more protected by standing up for an individual's freedom to religion. We play with fire if the State begins to tell individuals what religion is right or wrong.

We can keep some regulations for Sunday just to be mindful of the majority who are Sunday worshipers, such as noise regulations, closing bars and clubs etc. But maybe allow traders to open if they want. I think public transport, especially buses should be allowed to operate, the benefits to Christians is that they can be better able to travel to a church they want to go to, and not be stuck going to a church nearby that they may not like as much. God bless