Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Parihaka day: Growing in local peace stories

We need to be blessed by peace stories and peacemakers. Desperately. Even more, we need to be blessed by local peace stories and local peacemakers. Hearing allows us to grow in peace.  So join us

Sunday, 8 November, 7-8:20 pm, Opawa Baptist Church foyer, part of our Grow service.

Mark Grace, Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship will share some of his life story. It includes growing up Pakeha, becoming a Christian and as an adult starting to discover his Maori roots. Including a local Kiwi peace story, the events at Parihaka between Maori and Pakeha.  A local peace story over 100 years old, that has grown, blessed and challenged his understanding of Christian faith.

Updated: For more on Parihaka here’s something I wrote for radio a few years ago

Good morning listeners. Let me start with a question.

What is God asking of you?

It’s a question for today and it’s a question first asked thousands of years ago by the prophet Micah.

And while you ponder that question – What is God asking of you? – can I ask a second question:

What you did on Monday night? November 5. Perhaps, like many Kiwi’s, you were letting off fireworks in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day. Fire engines were out in our neighbourhood putting out fires all weekend and our neighbours hedge went up in smoke on Monday.

What was God asking of Kiwi Christians on Monday?

Guy Fawkes is a celebration of a failed assassination attempt. That was November 5th, 1605.

Here in New Zealand, on November 5th, 1881, the Maori village of Parihaka, in Taranaki, was invaded by 1500 Government soldiers.

The people of Parihaka had, in the years prior, lost over 3 million acres of their land. The Government offered them special reserves in return, but then the Government never met their promises. Instead they kept taking more and more land. Government surveyors would come out during the day and mark out the land. The people of Parihaka would sneak out at night and move the markers.

So on 5 November 1881, Parihaka was invaded. The whole village was arrested and sent to prison. The New Zealand army then totally destroyed the village, pulling down every single Maori house and destroying all the crops.

Why am I telling you this? Because the whole village of Parihaka was based on answering that historic question asked by the prophet Micah. What does God require of you? to seek justice, to live right and walk humbly before God.

So as the Government army approached, Te Whiti told the village. “If any come with guns and swords, be not afraid. If they smite you, smite not in return. If … settlers … flee from their farms [back] to the town … enter not you into their houses, touch not their goods nor their cattle.”

So I have a hunch that in answer to the question – what does God require of you – the prophet Micah would refuse to buy fireworks on Guy Fawkes Day. But I doubt he’d be a killjoy either. So instead of fireworks he’d probably throw a party in honour of people who stood for peace and rightliving and humble living. People like Parihaka.

So on Monday night, our family gathered with friends. Adults and kids together read to each other the story of Parihaka. We lit candles. We passed around white feathers of peace and asked each other what it would mean for us today to seek peace. And we shared a yummy dessert.

What is God asking of New Zealand Christians on November 5? To celebrate a failed assassination? Or to remember peace? What would happen if the entire Christian population of New Zealand boycotted Guy Fawkes Day and instead remembered Parihaka Day? That’s my viewpoint.

Posted by steve at 10:33 PM


  1. I appreciate what you’re doing here, Steve. I have many great childhood memories of Guy Faulks night, growing up. But this is a much more worthy cause for us, as New Zealanders, to pause and celebrate a people who were traditionally great warriors, who in the face of injustice, turned from the option of war, and committed to peace, at a terrible cost themselves. Even the great warrior Titokowaru remarked in reference to the founding of Parihaka, ‘This is the year of the daughters, this is the year of the lamb’. Interestingly, he, at the demise of Parihaka, became enraged, and sadly went on military campaign that almost drove out all Pakeha in that region ( what’s even more interesting is what is believed stopped his campaign – infidelity ). Thanks again, Steve, for making us aware of this, our history in peace making. Tena koe !


    Comment by Tangira — November 5, 2009 @ 8:19 am

  2. Amen! I think the Parihaka story is one of the most important of the NZ “colonial” history, and epitomises the way the Tangata Whenua so often grasped the gospel better than the cultural Christians who had known it for generations. As a newcomer to New Zealand and even newer to the study of Maoritanga I’m amazed what fertile soil for the gospel the indigenous culture is, especially when compared to western secular materialism! It just annoys me that so many NZ Christians are either so ignorant of this history and culture or at least behave as if they are.

    Comment by Jonathan Robinson — November 6, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  3. Thanks Jonathan. Certainly whenever I teach on it in my gospel and culture or mission history classes, I’m pretty impressed by the +ve response to it. So I think its’ ignorance and vital that we keep chatting about it,

    I’m thinking of doing a bit more on it on study leave next week – looking at how Te whiti used the Bible


    Comment by steve — November 7, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

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