News Release

Tongans Look to God for Religious Freedom and Happiness

The Speaker of the Tongan Parliament said religious freedom has always been a part of Tonga’s Constitution and will continue to be an important part of Tongan life, before an audience in Liahona, Tonga on Friday, 23 February.

The Honourable Lord of the Realm and the Speaker of the Tongan Legislative Assembly, Fatafehi Fakafanua, was the featured speaker at the Tongan Religious Freedom Dinner, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

A new booklet outlining the individual religious rights of each Tongan citizenproduced by the Church in Tongan and English with input from several organisations, was presented in the country for the first time at this event.  

Lord Fakafanua told the audience that 73 years before the United Nations released its Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, Tonga’s Constitution was written under the reign of King Tupou I, and provided for basic human rights such as freedom of religion.

He said that two articles of Tonga’s supreme law, clauses five and six, specifically recognize the authority of God in providing for freedom of worship and the sacredness of the Sabbath Day.

He explained that these freedoms are not taken lightly in Tonga.

“We realize that we are under the protection of the Almighty and like all contracts it’s a two-way road,” Lord Fakafanua stated. 

“We have to uphold that covenant, made between King Tupou I and God, as it was intended, which can often be difficult—especially in these times when there are so many things that can distract us from that.”

Lord Fakafanua travelled to Provo, Utah, USA in October 2023, to participate in the International Law and Religion Symposium, sponsored by the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. While there he made a presentation on Tonga’s long-held beliefs on religious freedom.

“I was so pleased to be able to tell them that Tonga has been a leader in protecting these rights since 1875,” he said.

A new brochure, "Religious Freedom: A Guide To Your Rights," was released by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tonga, 23 February 2024.© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

“I want to encourage everyone to read this new pamphlet on religious freedom being presented here tonight,” he said.  “I’m hoping people will take the time to read up on this, and we can find ways to get this out there on many other platforms.”

Elder Sione F. Tuione, Area Seventy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reminded the audience that it was the religious freedom provided for by the US Constitution that made it possible in 1820 for a young 14-year-old boy, Joseph Smith, to ask God which church he should join.  He said Tonga’s leaders, in a similar way, provided a framework of laws that make it possible for all its citizens to worship in whatever way they believe will bring them closer to God.

“I am so grateful to live in a country where I am free to go and invite others to come unto Christ,” Elder Tuione said. “I am grateful that we are allowed to make our own choices, and it is our responsibility to invite others to come and find this out for themselves.”

“I’m so grateful that our Tongan forefathers allowed us to be free in how we worship, in how we serve, and how we meet every Sunday,” he added.  “Jesus Christ is the true source of all happiness and joy in this life, and everyone should have the opportunity to find this out in their own way.”

Melelua Langi, leader of the committee that organized the event, was encouraged by the remarks given and the discussion among all of the participants afterwards. “There was such a strong expression of gratitude among all those in attendance for the blessings of freedom to worship as we choose,” she said.

“We’re looking forward to making this new brochure available to our larger community, so everyone can be reminded of the important freedoms we enjoy in our country, and do everything we can to preserve them,” Langi said.

Lord Fatafehi Fakafanua and FamilySearch
Lord Fatafehi Fakafanua and FamilySearch
Lord Fatafehi Fakafanua, Speaker of the Tongan Legislative Assembly (center), receives assistance from Frances Satini, a member of the Tongan National Communications Council (TNCC) and a FamilySearch Consultant, with his father's records in Elder Sione F. Tuione, Area Seventy (far left) and Bishop Sione Folau Langi of the Fua'amotu 1st Ward, looks on.© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

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