Samoan Culture


Samoans traditionally had a pantheistic religion, where family elders would perform most rituals. Missionaries introduced Christianity in the country in the early 19th century. Their profound impact on Samoa has become particularly evident in the religious landscape of contemporary society.

The vast majority of the Samoan population identify with some form of Christianity. According to 2016 estimates, over half the population (54.9%) identify with a Protestant sect of Christianity. More specifically, 29% identify as Congregationalist, 12.4% identify as Methodist, 6.8% identify with the Assembly of God and 4.4% identify as Seventh-Day Adventist.1 As for the remaining population that identify as Christian, nearly one-fifth (18.8%) identify as Catholic, 16.9% identify as Mormon, 2.8% identify with Worship Centre and 3.6% identify with some other form of Christianity.2 Of the rest of the population, 2.9% identify with some other religion and 0.2% identify with no religion.3


Christianity in Samoa

The Samoan population was generally receptive to Christian teachings and readily adopted the religion as it was introduced by colonial missionaries. Additionally, villages, including remote ones, took initiative to build churches for worship. Since then, churches continue to be seen around the islands. In contemporary Samoa, each village contains at least one church. This reflects the central role of Christianity in the lives and communities of most Samoans. Indeed, Christianity continues to be devoutly followed and a major point of social cohesion.

Daily life and the working week is structured around the Christian worship calendar. It is often expected that everyone will attend church on Sundays and will adhere to expectations of offering to the church in the form of tithes. Sundays are often reserved as a day for church and for rest. Activities that may be acceptable on other days, such as swimming, may not be permitted on Sunday. On a daily basis, most villages observe a time for prayers called ‘sa’. This time, usually occurring in the early evening, is marked by a siren or bell. The village will take a moment of silence to acknowledge the solemn time. Some families will perform prayers and hymns for a short while afterwards. Many public meetings will also begin and end with a prayer.


Within the Australian context, many young Samoans talk about having ‘time out’ as a reaction to the difficulties of maintaining fa’a Samoa and the Samoan identity whilst living in Australia. This usually involves leaving the church and rejecting parental authority and may also include living marginal lifestyles. For those ready to return to some form of stability, the church often provides an anchor.

Central Intelligence Agency, 2016

2 Central Intelligence Agency, 2016

3 Central Intelligence Agency, 2016


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