News Story

Leaders Discuss Interfaith Respect, Understanding and Collaboration in Tonga

Representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met with Reverend Filifai'esea Lilo, Secretary of the National Forum of Church Leaders, in Tonga recently to discuss past and future collaboration among faith groups.

Elder 'Aisake Tuku'afu, Latter-day Saint Area Seventy; Dr Michael Roberts, Pacific Area Director for Interfaith Relations; and Mr Howard Niu, Tonga Service Centre Manager, met with Reverend Lilo on Sunday 18 May in Nuku'alofa.

Reverend Lilo works in the Tongan Ministry of Internal Affairs and also fills the role of Crisis Intervention Coordinator. In this capacity he coordinates the efforts of all institutions involved in social welfare including churches, NGOs and other government ministries. The scope includes issues such as health promotion, employment services, marriage counseling, deportation reconnection, family violence, drugs and alcohol, suicide prevention, students who are expelled or drop out of school, and homelessness.

Reverend Lilo expressed appreciation for the Church's efforts to reach out to other faith groups to work with them in a collaborative manner.  He also thanked the Latter-day Saints for the Church's service to the people of Tonga over many years.

Earlier in the day Elder Tuku'afu and Dr Roberts met with Latter-day Saint lay leaders from across Tonga to discuss ways in which members of the Church could reach out to those of other faiths.

"The key focus of this meeting," Dr Roberts said, "was a recognition that while we may have some doctrinal differences with other faith communities, we have much in common."

"We are all spirit children of the same Heavenly Father. This makes us brothers and sisters, and as such, members of other faiths are deserving of the same love and respect we show to our own members."

The group discussed ways in which Latter-day Saint congregations could work cooperatively with other faiths to address key areas of need in each community.

Elder Tukuafu and Dr Roberts urged the Tongan ecclesiastical leaders to reach out to local ministers from other churches, and their congregations, in a spirit of love and kindness. 

Now back in Auckland, where he lives, Dr Roberts reflects on his visit to Tonga. "My time in Tonga was a powerful reminder to me of the need to work together ― regardless of our denomination ― to help the sick and the poor, and to bring comfort to the lonely. Together we can stand for religious freedom, for faith, for marriage and family, and for morality."








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