1990 - A Commemoration Year - He Tau Whakamaharatanga Mo Aotearoa

1 Jan 1990 | BUILDING COMMUNITY

Tihei mauri ora.

Ka poua te Pou tuatahi
Ko te Ao me ona mea katoa;
Ka poua te Pou tuarua
Ko te Tangata hei kaitiaki mo te Ao;
Ko poua te Pou tuatoru
Ko Tama-nui o te Ao katoa;
He Atua! He Tangata!

Whano! Whano! Tu mai te Ripeka!
Haumi e! hui e e e! Taiki e!

Behold, we live.

Life has three signposts
- the world, and all living things
- the people, guardians of the world
- the divine and human Son, the Saviour

Come! Let us go to the Cross standing before us.
Let us bind together in solidarity.
 

In 1988 the Catholic Church celebrated 150 years of involvement in pastoral ministry in this land of Aotearoa-New Zealand. 1990 marks an equally important occasion-150 years since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi, the document which marks the beginning of New Zealand as a nation. In the Old Testament and in Church history we know of the existence of Jubilee years. The origins of the Jubilee lie in the book of Leviticus and involve a new ordering of all things that were recognised as belonging to God: the land, which was allowed to lie fallow and was given back to its former owners; economic goods, in so far as debts were remitted and above all, people, whose dignity and freedom were reaffirmed in a special way by the manumission [emancipation] of slaves. The Year of God, then, was also the Year of People, the Year of the Earth, the Year of the Poor.1

As Bishops of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa-New Zealand, we call all the people of this land to celebrate 1990 in the spirit of Jubilee, and in particular to undertake the twin tasks of renewal and reconciliation. Recent historical research and our own knowledge of Church history in this country leads us to understand that this country was established as a bicultural state through the signing of texts in Maori (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and in English (The Treaty of Waitangi). The signatories were 540 Rangatira, representing their hapu and iwi (subtribe and tribe), and Lieutenant Governor William Hobson, representing the British Crown. We understand that the Maori signatories were not giving away ownership of their lands, seas and resources, but were allowing the Crown to exercise governance over these. The first Catholic bishop in New Zealand, Jean Baptiste Pompallier, recorded in his diary (19 January 1845) that he was told by Catholic Maori leaders: that New Zealand is like a ship, the ownership of which should remain with the New Zealanders (Maori) and the helm in the hands of the Colonial authorities. 2 Te Tiriti acknowledges the special place of the Maori people as tangata whenua (the people of the land)-that is, indigenous. They understand it to be a covenant and a taonga tapu (a sacred treasure). The Treaty also provides the moral basis for the presence of all other peoples in Aotearoa-New Zealand and guarantees reciprocal rights and obligations between the Crown and Maori. As a result of Te Tiriti, Maori people conferred great benefit on British subjects then living in Aotearoa-New Zealand and on all other immigrants since.3

The review of our history clearly indicates that the promises and guarantees made in 1840 have not been consistently upheld and that the Maori partner has suffered grave injustices. The Maori have not always been given the protection of the State as promised under the Treaty. Worse still, the State has often deprived them by law of many of the promised guarantees. The State reflects the attitudes and behaviour of its people. In New Zealand racial prejudice still exists and is practised, particularly against the Maori. Racist thoughts, attitudes and behaviour are sinful because they are clearly against the specific message of Christ, for whom neighbour is not only a person from my tribe, my milieu, my religion or my nation: it is every person that I meet along the way.4

1990 marks an opportunity for renewal and reconciliation. Pope Paul Vl reminds us: "This renewal and reconciliation pertain in the first place to the interior life, above all because it is in the depths of the heart that there exists the root of all good, and unfortunately of all evil. It is in the depths of the heart, therefore, that there must take place conversion or metanoia, that is, a change of direction of attitude, of option, of one's way of Iife .... This call to renewal and reconciliation is in harmony with the most sincere aspirations to liberty, justice, unity and peace."5

Renewal and reconciliation concern not only the interior life of each individual, but the whole Church, and also the whole of human society. The "all-consuming desire for profit" and "the thirst for power with the intention of imposing one's will on others . . . at any price" are sinful attitudes contributing to the creation of "structures of sin".6

These powerful attitudes are reflected in the pain and suffering that Maori people constantly refer to when they talk of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi being broken. Like a Jubilee Year, 1990 gives us an opportunity to recognise past and present injustices and to work to resolve them and effect reconciliation based on justice. With the tradition and teaching of the Church, we affirm: that the right of the first occupants to land, and a social and political organization which would allow them to preserve their cultural identity, while remaining open to others, must be guaranteed.7

This is what the Treaty set out to do. There is need for constitutional supports for protecting the rights of the tangata whenua - cultural, social and political - and for supporting the efforts of the Waitangi Tribunal as a court of inquiry to assess claims and define principles.

We believe and proclaim the importance of recognising the diversity and complementarity of one another's cultural riches and moral qualities as well as the need for building community and solidarity.8

In order to achieve the necessary respect, community and solidarity which our faith requires of us, our two national bodies, Te Runanga o te Hahi Katorika ki Aotearoa (Catholic Maori body) and the Catholic Commission for Justice, Peace and of Development, have proposed that we all work to promote and create "structures of grace" for Aotearoa. As Bishops, we support this call on all Catholic people and on all people of goodwill to take the creating of new structures of grace as the challenge of the present generation and of this 1990 year.

To further assist the Church on matters of the Treaty of Waitangi and the partnership created, a Catholic Committee will be established to promote bicultural relationships in our multicultural society. Its membership will reflect the diversity of cultural backgrounds which make up our Church membership. In addition, two educational programmes will be published to help Catholic people become aware and informed about the challenge before us. Guided by the social teaching of our Church, the programmes will encourages Catholics to be active and informed contributors to the current debate and constructive builders of structures of harmony and grace. 1990 must be more than a commemoration. It must be a year that marks a new beginning in the Church's work for reconciliation and racial harmony. May it be a year in which we make even more resolute efforts to "secure justice and equality for every human being, an end to all division, and a society built on love and peace".9


References

1 Pope Paul Vl, Bull of Indiction of the Holy Year 1975, 23 May 1974, n 34.

2 P. T. B. McKeefry, The Fishers of Men, ed. 1938, p.115.

3 Gordon Orr, Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law, Victoria University, member of the Waitangi Tribunal, in a Letter to the Royal Commission on Social Policy on behalf of the Waitangi Tribunal, December 1987, cited in The April Report, Vol. III, Part I, Future Directions, Report of the Royal Commission on Social Policy, pp.128-131.

4 Pontifical Commission Iustitia et Pax, The Church and Racism: Towards a Fraternal Society, 1988, n.24.

5 Pope Paul V1, op. cit. n.7.

6 Pope John Paul 11, On Social Concerns, 1987, n.37.

7 Pontifical Commission Iustitia et Pax, op. cit. n.10.

8 Ibid, n.23.

9 Prayer from the Mass for the Progress of Peoples (Roman Missal).