For us to really move forward as a nation we have to understand our history, learn our history and not be as näive as we have been’—Māori affairs expert Moehau Hodges-Tai.
I remember learning about the Treaty of Waitangi in primary school. Around the same time, I recall the diversity of my classrooms. I’ve never known a New Zealand that didn’t consist of a vast array of ethnicities and cultures. This was never something I questioned—multiculturalism was a core component of what defined us as Aotearoa. I remember going to the home of a Korean friend and seeing how things differed from my own Pākehā household. I knew these differences weren’t to be seen as being better or worse—just different.
A report released in 2015— Our Multicultural Future—found that the Treaty of Waitangi should be the basis for what makes people of other cultures more comfortable in New Zealand. An understanding of our biculturalism will also strengthen our multiculturalism.
The report discovered that there’s a strong desire across a wide range of people to take forward the Treaty into the multicultural future of New Zealand. This would involve building stronger relations between tangata whenua and other ethnic groups.
So what does this look like for us as people of Christian faith in Aotearoa? To quote former Archbishop Brown Turei: The Treaty is a ‘spiritual covenant, and a moral promise’. Many would also call it a ‘contract of respect’.
The tangata whenua, as Treaty partners, play a special role in welcoming newer migrants and cultures. They offer manaakitanga to the newest members of our community—as they did when they signed the Treaty.
As we go about sharing our beliefs, the Treaty can—and should—serve as a constant reminder that our land is not built off the back of one dominant culture, but rather a plethora of worldviews which we can all learn from.
As Captain James Hobson declared after the Treaty’s signing: ‘He iwi kotahi tātau’—we are now one people.
Waitangi Day, on 6 February, is a time to reflect on our founding document’s intended purpose, and remember that sharing peace, showing respect, and upholding equality is something we must choose to do—it’s not just something that happens.
In 1990, at the 150th anniversary of the signing, then-Bishop of Aotearoa Te Whakahuihui Vercoe noted there was still work to be done on bicultural relations in New Zealand. Yet he closed his speech with these words: ‘May God give us the courage to be honest with one another, to be sincere with one another and, above all, to love one another in the strength of God’.
As we aim to move forward with the foundation of our Treaty, may we draw upon our faith for strength and hope.
By Hugh Collins (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 26 January 2019 p3. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.