Breaking down the walls
Reframing the conversation
By Keith Newman 02-02-22
An important framework for a different kind of conversation around the Treaty of Waitangi is slowly making its way into public consciousness despite circulating in government, corporate and legal compliance documents for the past 35-years.
Without taking away from the three main clauses, the treaty principles (the three P’s), ‘partnership, protection and participation’ opened up some fresh possibilities for how the treaty can be perceived.
These soft definitions help restore a sense of heart and intent beyond the terminology that lawyers and others continue to debate in relation to Waitangi Tribunal hearings and settlements.
The Waitangi Tribunal must determine if the way the Crown has acted or failed to act is inconsistent with the principles and which principles should apply. Over the years a number of principles have emerged which can be applied based on the treaty texts and relevant context.
In legal parlance the principles are a way for the Government to reconcile the differences between the English and Maori versions of the treaty. They became part of the legal framework of the country in 1987 although they are not enshrined in law.
Sir Robin Cooke, president of the Court of Appeal, in an attempt to clarify the ‘principles of the treaty’, which he saw as the most important document in New Zealand’s history, was given the unenviable task of determining what was meant by partnership.
“The Treaty created an enduring relationship of a fiduciary nature akin to a partnership, each party accepting a positive duty to act in good faith, fairly, reasonably and honourably toward the other”.
The partnership principle remains the most controversial of the three P's and has its own sub-set of principles based on the various spheres where it is applied. In 1989, five principles were defined: Kawanatanga, the principle of government; Rangatiratanga, the principle of self-government along with Equality, Cooperation and Redress.
More holistic view needed
The origin of the principles is believed to be in the late 1970s when the Maori Women’s Welfare League wanted to address structural racism in the health system including a failure to recognise the spiritual component in Maori health.
A decade later the ‘three P’s’ were framed as part of the Royal Commission on Social Policy (1986) to shift the common perception that the Treaty of Waitangi was solely about land, by giving equal consideration to social services, housing, health and education.
They were proposed by Sir Mason Durie and aligned well with the Whare Tapa Wha model he devised in 1984 to help move the health system from compartmentalised thinking to a more holistic approach.
Whare Tapa Wha, has been widely embraced in many institutions and could easily be understood as a Christian worldview. It includes physical or body (tinana), soul or mental health (hinengaro) and family or community connectedness (whanau) while embracing the spiritual (wairua) dimension so often ignored or not recognised in western models of health or thinking.
The whare or meeting house represents the four parts of building necessary for strength and stability.
Recent descriptions add taha to all the components suggesting this is a Maori way of viewing life but it doesn’t take much imagination to see this as something we can all benefit from.
Over time Whare Tapa Wha evolved into the Hauora model (vital essence, wind, breeze or health and healing), described as a unique Maori-based framework for healthy people and organisations. The additional dimension of whenua, the land or roots at the foundation of the whare, was proposed in 1997 and again in 2001 and increasingly included in the model.
New overview needed
What can we learn from this Hauora model? Rather than simply assimilating it for our own purposes, can it provide a path for the church, particularly the Pakeha expression of it, to engage alongside Maori? Can it help facilitate mutual understanding, relationship building and breaking down of those walls (barriers, ethnic differences/ beliefs) that divide us (Ephesians 2: 14).
We need to start with nothing less than the truth that Maori are full members of society and indeed the ‘Body of Christ’ where all parts have a role to play. If we are indeed ‘partners’ and ‘participants’ then we need to become more aware of how our bi-cultural relationships have been neglected and now need to be ‘protected’.
A pre-requisite for moving ahead is to dispense with the cliches doing the rounds like ‘get over it and get on with it’, and find a more helpful, healing and hopeful way of viewing those relationships, past and present and how we can work together for a common future?
The risk is that while the church is still considering whether or not or how to engage, as several Maori kaumatua have expressed recently, ‘that ship has already sailed’. In other words, Maori aren’t waiting around for the church, which has failed them so often in the past, to catch up. They’re already tacking to their own destination while it seems many in the church are still looking for the compass.
New expression of humanity
Before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi William Colenso interjected very publicly asking Hobson whether he thought Maori truly knew what they were signing? Hobson responded ‘its no fault of mine if they don’t’. It was then that Hone Heke, the first to sign, responded that Maori would rely on the missionaries to help them come to terms with what they were about to sign.
Right there...in that simply confident statement, the church is implicated and given a responsibility. So what did we do with that privilege and challenge?
If Christ, broke down the walls of division between believers why do we persist in keeping them up, failing to address racial, denominational and cultural divisions? What is it in our systems, structures and personal attitudes that prevents us from embracing each other as equals?
There is an uncomfortable trend in some quarters to dismiss the teachings of Christ as ‘white man’s religion’ to be disposed of as part of the de-colonisation agenda. That view conveniently or perhaps intentionally ignores the fact that the Treaty of Waitangi would most likely never have been signed if Maori hadn’t trusted the early missionaries.
By the same token it is difficult to defend the role of the church without taking on board some sense of responsibility and even blame for failing to stand alongside Maori in their mamae (their pain) and the betrayal of the treaty so soon after it was signed.
The Apostle Paul tried his best to explain to non-Jewish people, that through the revelation of Christ and his liberating teaching the barriers or divisions that once existed between the racially, culturally and theologically separate groups had been destroyed, torn down.
Paul, a converted legalistic Jewish Zealot, had a serious and debilitating close encounter with Christ, who in appearing to him post-crucifixion, asked why he continued to persecute his followers? Paul had been made blind by this encounter and now, after re-evaluating everything he knew, his eyes were opened literally and figuratively.
Christ smashed down his racist and legalistic religious views, and showed Paul love and compassion, revealing the true spirit of what was intended all along. The tribes of Israel had been made custodians of deep truth that was not meant to be locked up in a controlling and at times despotic religio-political framework.
Peace in the storm
Paul’s old Christian-killing hatred was gone. “For he himself (Christ) is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed (torn down) the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh (sinful lower state) the law with its commands and regulations (creating) in himself one new humanity out of the two.” (Ephesians 2: 14-18).
All of this underpins and further explains the words spoken, but perhaps not fully understood by the ailing Captain William Hobson soon to be our first governor, when he greeted the chiefs after the signing on that first Waitangi Day.
Those words he iwi tahi tatau at the very least underscored how Henry Williams saw the treaty, a visionary desire for unity, reinforcing a duty of care and relationship.
The act of reconciliation between Paul and Christ and the Jews and Gentiles through a powerful expression of love, was accompanied by an invitation to become ‘fellow citizens with God’s people’, members of God’s household which is built “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone”.
Paul was paraphrasing for the Jews and Greeks (non-Jewish people) a higher calling that superseded Sunday religion or temple traditions and inviting two very different people groups to be part of a global body of people enlivened, empowered, encouraged and equipped by God’s Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2: 20-22).
This mental image of ‘God’s household’ clearly has many dimensions but if we can begin to imagine it from an earthly turangawaewae (place on which to stand), then perhaps the Whare Tapa Wha-Hau Ora model is a good place to start.
Its holistic integrated view of body, mind, spirit, family and the land (environment) takes us away from compartmentalised individualistic thinking, engages us with others and connects us to the spiritual realm where the Creator’s plan might be more far reaching than we have allowed our imaginations to consider.
Abdicate or embrace
We can point the finger at the Government; and hopefully with the right governance over time the major disparities we face will be addressed, but the risk in expecting those we elect to solve all our problems is that the church abdicates its treaty responsibilities all over again.
We are again seeing Maori voices rise across all sectors of society with fresh ideas, new ways of seeing and being, championing a thriving economy, greater inclusion and more economic, social, cultural and spiritual recovery plans.
Across the country there’s a sense of renewal of heritage and purpose among Maori who are developing a long-term vision for the future. Can the same be said for the church and its various iterations?
Salvation formulas often ask people to confess their sins (an old archery term meaning missing the mark), repent (have a fundamental, childlike transformation of mind/ to turn around) and seek forgiveness (as opposed to payback) in order to be reconciled to God and each other.
Is it possible much of the so-called church today is stuck in time because it has failed to face the past, or see the consequence of its actions or inaction? Perhaps the circuit breaker is our own need for confession, repentance and to ask forgiveness for not bringing down the barriers living out the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?
There is a precedent for this, perhaps a number of them. Canon Wi Huata, the author of Tutira Mai Nga Iwi, the song calling for people to stand together shoulder to shoulder (pokohiwi ki te pokohiwi) in unity also translated How Great Though Art into the well-known Maori version Whakaaria Mai which also calls on us to be humbled by the awesomeness of our Creator.
He was a 28th Maori battalion chaplain and in 1953 at a Kingitanga coronation ceremony (ironically in the year of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation) Bishop Huata urged Pakeha Bishop J.T Holland to apologise to King Karoki for the past behaviour of Pakeha and the church toward Maori.
Reconciliation action needed
In the 1970s and early there were a number of large inter-denominational gatherings where Pakeha leaders were bought to tears in a humbling expression of grief at the way the church had treated its Maori brothers and sisters and again a seeking of forgiveness.
In the early 2000’s Bradford Haami, Cindy Ruakere and a group of prayerful believers went to England to meet with a group there that were eager to humble themselves before iwi leaders across the country. They came several times seeking forgiveness for the actions of the British that resulted in so many breaches of the treaty of Waitangi. That powerful expression is well remembered across the nation.
The challenge remains despite the ad hoc apologies there now needs to be evidence of change and a programme of action.
Over the next year powerful creative resources including software, books and guidelines will be made available to help New Zealand churches take an inventory of their treaty honouring status and equip them to participate more effectively in the bi-cultural journey.
Maybe in breaking down the walls between us and stepping away from hierarchical models, theological legalism, and denominational distinctions a more organic and embracing definition of partnership and what it means to be church in Aotearoa-New Zealand might take shape.
- Keith Newman, 02-02-22