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Tangilaulau: Lament for th loss of young lives.
By Siosifa Pole in All Sorts
We have so many young lives devastated by domestic violence and lost to suicide, and we need to break the silence and cry out in concern.Tangilaulau: Lament for the Loss of Young Lives
I was very honoured and privileged to be one of the presenters at the Oceania Biblical Studies Association Conference that was held at St John and Trinity Theological Colleges. This Conference was held for two days,from the 21st to the 22nd of April. Those two days were enriched by various presenters who presented papers on climate change, land occupation, war and peace, violence against women, just to name a few. I had a chance to present my paper on violence against young people and youth suicide in relation to the lament of Rachel in Matthew chapter 2 verses 16 to 18. Such an issue is not new to the audience and yet it is one of the issues that is rarely discussed openly in families and churches. We have so many young lives devastated by domestic violence and lost to suicide, which is a serious concern. The community seems silent about these issues, but we need to interrupt that silence. That was the purpose of my presentation. In order to interrupt the silence, I suggested that we need to lament loudly and consistently.
The Tongan word for ‘lament’ is tangilaulau. It can be translated as ‘weeping or wailing or crying with murmuring’. It is a type of weeping and crying which physically and verbally expresses pain by raising the voice so loud that everyone can hear the heartache and hurt of losing a loved one. That voice would not be heard unless people attend to these issues and at the same time intervene to console and to comfort. Moreover, there will be no consolation if there is no honest and open
conversation and consultation about the loss of life. In that way, tangilaulau is seen as an avenue to express one’s honest feeling toward his/ her loss. Furthermore, tangilaulau enables a person to break the silence of pain and hurt.
The concept of tangilaulau is the only voice heard in the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem in Matthew 2:16-18. This passage is part of the Infant Narrative according to the author of Matthew’s gospel. We are told that Joseph and Mary were warned in a dream by an angel of the Lord to flee to Egypt in order to save the life of their baby Jesus. While they were on their way to Egypt, King Herod sent his soldiers to kill all baby boys under two years old in Bethlehem. The angel of the Lord didn’t warn the mothers of Bethlehem to rescue their children. In addition, no one dared to mourn or to acknowledge the loss of these young lives. There is a complete silence in the text, and also the historical documents at the time about this massacre. Even God seems to remain silent in the text. Warren Carter, a Biblical scholar insists that although God was not involved in Herod’s decision; God seems to be powerless to defend these young lives. He remarks, “God predicted it in scripture and permitted it in the present.” (Matthew and the Margin, p. 86) Except, the voice of a dead person and she was a woman. Her name is Rachel. Matthew writes, “A voice was heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” It is the voice of a dead person that interrupted the silence about the horror of this massacre and the loss of these young lives. The future of this community is gone for they are no more.
Rev Greg Hughson in his unpublished paper, entitled, “A Practical Theology of Suicide (Whakamomori) Prevention”, portrays annual reports of statistics and graphs of those who died of suicide. In 2007 to 2008 there were 540 deaths to suicide, 2009 to 2010 were 558, 2011 to 2012 were 547, 2013 to 2014 were 529, and 2014 to 2015 there were 569 suicides. The trend of suicide deaths has varied every year but between the year 2014 and 2015 it was been increasing dramatically. The death of these young people happened across many cultures and ethnic groups. I was privileged to take part in the remembrance of these lives when I was invited to do a Karakia at the Life Matters Suicide Prevention workshop that was held at the Town-Hall in 2016. I was glad to be one of the voices to mourn and to acknowledge the loss of these young lives and those who died by suicide.
It is not only suicide that cost the loss of these young lives but also domestic violence. Statistics from New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse shows the appalling trend of death among young people under the age of 20 because of domestic violence. In 2007, there were 14 deaths, 2008 15 deaths, 2009 29 deaths, 2010 13 deaths, 2011 20 deaths, 2012 13 deaths, 2013 10 deaths, 2014 10 deaths, and 2015 were 17 deaths of domestic violence. Although, some cases are not reported to the Police, these statistics show the horror of domestic violence against young people in our country. It reflects that New Zealand, which has a population of 4.47 million, has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the developed countries. Who has the compassion and courage to interrupt the silence?
Janet Frame in her novel entitled Owls Do Cry, raised the alarming injustices done to those who were locked in mental institutions in the 1950s in New Zealand. The author shared her own experience of being a patient in a mental institution and the horror she faced as a person by the name of Daphne. She was a victim of abuse and abandonment but was able to break out as a survivor. Janet’s story in this novel sets the example of how to resist violence and to fight for justice through compassion and courage. She became the voice for the silent voices in this hostile community.
Tangilaulau provides the means for the voiceless to make their voices heard and known. It is also an avenue for those who grieve, to release their pain and grief, is the case (tragically) in Manchester at the moment as the result of the insane actions of a suicide bomber. Rachel’s lament (tangilaulau) in Matthew 2:16-18, became the voice for the mothers of Bethlehem and their murdered children. As members of the Dunedin Methodist Parish, we can be the voice for all those who are victims of suicide and domestic violence. Let’s break the silence together.