2023 Annual Peace Conversation

Kia tau te rangimarie ki a koutou - query, Aotearoa-2023
21 September 2023, Otago University, Dunedin NZ

E te Atua e to matou Matua i te rangi, i arahitia ai e koe nga tohunga o onamata ki tau tama. Ka huri o matou whakaaro ki a ratou ma i tenei ra. Ka mau mahara matou ki o ratou mahi whakamiharo. Ano te ahuareka a nga waewae i runga i nga maunga o te kaikawe i te rongopai, e kauwhau ana i te maungarongo, meinga te marama o tou rongopai kia tiaho i roto i te ao katoa kia aru kia koropiko ai nga tangata ki a koe i nga wahi katoa, I runga I te ingoa o te Ariki o te rongomau. Amine.

God of peace and justice,
In days gone by you have called many indigenous leaders, men and women
to lead their people
to struggle for justice
by peaceful means;
may we defend the rights of the powerless
and build our communities
on the basis of mutual care and love;
in the name of God who is perfect peace.

Tuarua, me mihi ano ahau ki nga mana whenua, nga kaitiaki pai o tenei rohe o Otepoti tae noa atu ki nga rohe katoa o Kai Tahu whanui.

Tuatoru, I want with respect to acknowledge our hosts for this annual lecture - the Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group and the Otago University Tertiary Chaplaincy Team. Yours is such vitally important work in these increasingly uncertain and volatile times.  Together you represent the critical faith based pillars necessary for social stability, human flourishing and a deep and enduring peace with justice for all.

As we know, each one of the Abrahamic faiths implores us to act with and for and in peace.

One of my Muslim friends shared with me a beautiful prayer from the Koran at 49:11. Paraphrased in Maori and English it reads: “Tuturu, he tuakana, teina nga tangata whakapono ki a ratou ano; no reira me hohou i te rongo ki waenganui o o koutou tuakana, teina, me te wehi ki a Allah, kia tohungia koutou. Translated as, “Surely all believers are brothers. So make peace between one another, and fear Allah that mercy may be shown to you.

I was raised with what is known to Maori as Te Rawiri – this was the original Maori Anglican Prayer Book. Central to this precious taonga karakia are the Psalms. Because these were among the first Biblical texts to be translated into Maori their significant and enduring influence was assured. When translated in the early 1830’s they assumed a tremendous depth of meaning because the indigenous language of the time was so powerfully evocative of the same imagery, symbolism, pain and beauty inherent in the original messages of the Psalms themselves. Remember this is just preceding the times when Maori were to be systematically relieved of land, language and resources. The times when diseases against which Maori had no immunity would soon begin to take their toll. As the full devastating impact of colonisation began to impact Maori, ironically and yet entirely understandably, the Psalms especially, provided boundless solace – they encouraged my ancestors to stay faithful and to believe that deliverance lay ultimately in their willingness to abide by the ‘rules for right living’ in obedience to God irrespective of the suffering they were experiencing. I can still hear the elders chanting the Psalms such as 29:11. This is one which reminds us all that the Lord blesses his people with peace . . . Kia homai e Ihowa he kaha ki tana hunga; he rongo mau ta Ihowa manaaki mo tana hunga.

And so it is completely unsurprising that as the years have gone by Maori also have continued to invoke the same faith filled yearning for peace and in our contemporary interfaith context, to see our contemporary greeting “kia tau te rangimarie” as being akin to the equally warm hearted greetings of our sisters and brothers - Salaam Alaikum and Shalom Alecheim.

Kia tau te Rangimarie is a beautiful, gentle spiritually enshrined sentiment, a sentiment which at once both implores and affirms the ‘rightness’ of peace as the substantive basis of blessed and just relationships.

In various, religiously framed iterations the sentiment itself is widely used throughout Aotearoa by most faith based institutions.

Kia tau te Rangimarie is thus offered by Maori into the public discourses on how and why it is  good and honourable for us all to carry within us this seed or kakano which inclines us always toward essential human goodness.

Every utterance of these words implies a simple and sincere heartfelt yearning that God’s peace will pervade our innermost impulses for human connection and thus will guide and inform our ways of interacting with one another, our ways of understanding one another, and perhaps most importantly, these words will (and ought) guide and inform our faith filled instinct for ensuring justice for all.

Because I grew up at a time in Aotearoa when the church and the marae were ascendant in Maori communities then these words are ingrained in me but moreso, their deep meaning and the faith based praxis implicit in that meaning. It was in this way that my experience of whanau and community and thus my formative instincts for all relationships were premised on this simple little saying.

It was only when as a child growing up in urban communities far removed from whanau that I began to worry – I began to worry because for the first time I saw my mother, my stunningly beautiful, talented, articulate, kind hearted Te Rarawa mother being spoken to harshly, being publicly humiliated for no good reason, apart from being Maori. I saw her hold her to her own mana and I saw her tears but she did not retort. 

And then it began to happen to me, the snide racist remarks about my ‘kumara’ appearance, my ‘rubber’ lips, about how it must be the Pakeha ‘half’ of me that was clever and that was good at sports, but neither was ever good enough for me to chosen as captain and certainly never ever good enough for me to be considered for any leadership role in school. As a young teenager I did not at that time apprehend my own mana and initially at least, I was too well-mannered to retort. Certainly however, my earliest apprehensions of kia tau te rangimarie, were fast receding . . .

I was a more mature teenager through the sixties and early seventies, the years when Maori activism began to impact irrevocably upon this nation – activism borne of too many years of injustice, activism borne of too many years of colonial oppression. I found my radical niche very early on in somehow knowing intuitively that my faith nevertheless compelled me to stand up for redemptive justice.

The Land March, the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal, Bastion Point, The Haka Party at Auckland University, Waitangi Day Protests, the Maori Language Petition – my family home became a microcosm of the national struggle to reconcile the rising tensions between the descendants of those who had seized power and resources by force and by legislative stealth and those who had all along been willing to share both and thus to live peaceably alongside one another. Those who through no fault of our own were by then living into the legacy of disenfranchisement from land, language, marae, whanau . . .

My Te Rarawa mother was urging me on in my fledgling activist instincts, my Pakeha father was urging restraint, good manners and the avoidance of conflict at all costs!

“Kia tau te Rangimarie my daughter”, is what he would (largely unsuccessfully) urge upon me.

I won’t bore you by continuing the chronology of my life, suffice to say, my scholarship and my professional career in the intervening years has always been attentive and responsive to the moral and thus political dilemma invariably at the heart of racial, gender, economic injustice.

I am a completely inadvertent theologian, never in my wildest imaginings did I ever consider I would ever be a student of theology much less a teacher of it. 

In my early theological studies however I was so blessed to sit at the feet of those trained in the Maryknoll tradition and then later I was drawn to the teachings and writings of  those staunch Latin American and black liberation theologians and activists, Jesuits especially. They gave me the theological language of social, political and gender justice, they gave legitimacy to my protest instincts and they were unequivocally encouraging, empowering, emphatic that together we have job to do!

Here in Aotearoa also a very small number of Maori as mainstream Christian church leaders also subscribed to the faith based urgings of those globally iconic, wonderful radically compassionate thinkers, teachers, activists. – Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Gustavo Gutierrez, Jesse Jackson. And it was these very few Maori clerics who ultimately aligned themselves with the original, the very courageous early Maori activist groups and individuals. In so doing however, most concurrently ‘misaligned’ themselves with the leaders of their respective denominational churches who did not approve of the unseemly mix of what they described as radical politics and faith! Clearly those institutional leaders must in some way have held the same dim view of Jesus who by all reputable accounts, was a model unapologetic radical activist – an unequivocal peacebuilder but with an unerring eye for justice!

During my post-graduate studies (now almost 30 years ago) I had moved into theological educational leadership and I was so incredibly excited at the prospect of bringing my new learnings into what I later described as a ‘150 year old colonially inspired patriarchally encrusted Anglican theological college’ crying out for radical transformation.

The institution was not in the least bit impressed with my stance and ultimately in spite of my best efforts to prove myself as a dedicated scholar, researcher, as an internationally reputable advocate and activist for peace with justice, as an active ecumenist and very early advocate for inter-faith studies, an enduring black mark was subsequently entered against my name!

Anyway let me turn now to 2003, the year immediately prior to the inaugural Peace Lecture. That year, now twenty years ago saw in Aotearoa; the Foreshore and Seabed debacle unfold which gave rise to unprecedented levels of public protest and led directly to the subsequent formation of the Maori Party; the Whale Rider released to great public acclaim and an absolute dearth of critical analysis; Maori Television was set to be launched, Ngati Awa and Ngati Tuwharetoa Treaty claims were ostensibly ‘settled’; the Government released a new Maori Language Strategy document entitled Te Rautaki Reo  - an absolutely brilliantly aspirational policy document which is lurching now somewhat precariously toward its projected fulfilment in 2028 and you will all recall I am sure, that Maori were declared to be just 16.5% of the newly recorded 4 million people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Also in 2003 just 20 years ago, about five times as many Maori as Pakeha were apprehended, prosecuted and convicted and Maori accounted for 51% of male prison inmates and 58% of female prison inmates – well in excess of our 16.5% in the population.

Furthermore health, educational, socio-economic and gendered inequities for Maori loomed large across every statistical indicator of life in Aotearoa.

Surely there can be no question therefore that ‘peace’ by any cultural, moral, spiritual indeed any intellectual definition simply could not be seen writ large in the lives of Maori in 2003 and neither I will argue, is it yet so in 2023.

Worse, given the current increasingly virulent anti-Maori pre-election sentiments abroad in Aotearoa and given some fairly recent extraordinarily turbulent history in our nation then the chances of us being able to say, let alone to feel, tau te rangimarie with confidence, let alone with compassion or aroha, is becoming more and more forlorn.

It would not be an understatement to say that race politics, race baiting, anti-Tiriti, anti Maori leadership, authority, autonomy are today intensifying in scale and savagery. As we turn toward the general election, now just weeks away. Certainly, this is becoming an increasingly frightening time for those of us who are wahine and who are in any kind of leadership role especially in the secular world.

Look at how the Hon. Kiritapu Allan, an incredibly competent, selfless, visionary politician was so cruelly and relentlessly vilified at a time of deep personal vulnerability, look at how she was so readily publicly demonised, blatantly lied about after a no harm car crash – even today, no one has publicly retracted the widespread lie that the Police used tracker dogs to find her after the accident. What about MP Marama Davidson? Have you seen the shocking video taken at the time she was deliberately struck on a pedestrian crossing, in broad daylight, in Auckland’s busy domain, by one of Brian Tamaki’s slavishly obedient foot soldiers; what about Moana Maniapoto who makes the most stunning Award Winning documentary programs – have you ever had occasion to read the public comments posted after every single one of her measured, intelligent, fearless journalistic forays into the critical issues of our times, issues which are arguably, systemically and certainly attitudinally, precluding any prospect of a just and enduring peace for Maori and thus more broadly for Aotearoa? What about Her Worship Mayor Tory Whanau – oh how certain media went into an absolute frenzy over her supposedly utterly ‘egregious’ decision to bring her dog, her pet, her companion to work, let alone how vilified she was for doing what I guarantee we have all had inadvertent occasion to do – to forget to pay for a restaurant meal after either being ‘distracted’ by the joy of breaking bread and drinking fine wine with good friends, or being confused about what the payment arrangement among friends actually is or simply being so tired that we genuinely forgot. Elizabeth Kerekere, Hon. Debbie Ngarewa Packer, Lady Tureiti Moxon, Nanaia Mahuta – outstanding leaders all, and all being targeted with hate speech, with violent abusive messaging to do with their appearance, their pro-Maori obsessions, their so called ‘lack of credibility’ and so on and on it goes – all of it to the largest extent, anonymous, of course.

This is not measured, intelligent, dare I say respectful disagreement, no, this is just outright cowardly and increasingly vicious racist hatred.

Now I know there are some who will say this is all merely coincidental – the fact that all of these examples have Maori women at their centre is not in any way indicative of a concerted racist campaign to discredit, disparage and ultimately to literally disempower Maori.

Well if that was all there is going on in Aotearoa then maybe, just maybe you could mount a successful argument along those lines but of course that is only a miniscule list of what is actually going on more broadly and in my view, without sufficient legal restraint.

I travel quite often and so it is with deep sadness that I now regularly encounter Air New Zealand staff who tell me they are regularly verbally abused on flights and off, for using te reo and this has now gone beyond the very visible eyerolling during the safety video to actual confrontation especially from passengers when disembarking. Just a week or so ago I went searching in Auckland for some of that Whittakers chocolate with the reo Maori packaging – I wanted to give some as a gift to my overseas colleagues. I cannot repeat some of the responses I received when I asked in various supermarkets for the chocolate wrapper written in te reo.

What about the Ku Klux Klan fancy dressers at the Kaimai School fundraiser just over a month ago? What about the jaw dropping idiocy of a certain senior politician whose very recent announcement about Maori not being indigenous was oh so gleefully seized upon even by some in mainstream media as being akin to a new found ‘gospel’ truth.

What about the truly incendiary behaviour being undertaken and the vile propaganda being readily distributed around Aotearoa by Julian Batchelor and his anti-Tiriti, anti co-governance acolytes and cronies? What we have from this group are blatant racist untruths being promulgated far and wide with potentially dangerous consequences.

In case you haven’t been blessed with an invitation to attend one of his roadshow hui let me save you the bother – for here, according to Batchelor is the definition you have all been waiting for!

Co-Governance is code for the takeover of New Zealand by tribal companies and their representatives, the end of democracy, the installation of apartheid and separatism into everyday life, eventually leading to full blown government by tribal rule.

By and large as people who live within or at least belong to communities of faith, ask yourselves, does that definition sound right? Is this how you have experienced marae, whare wananga, whare karakia, is this how you have experienced Maori as your friends, colleagues, whanau? Is this how you understand Te Tiriti o Waitangi which provides in my view, the original template for building a peaceful and just society? As Bishop Manu Bennett reminds us, Te Tiriti is a promise of two peoples to take the best possible care of each other. I want to echo his sentiment by adding, please don’t worry if you don’t know the clauses, the nuanced history, the legal status of Te Tiriti, just know it was intended to provide a framework for peaceful, mutually agreed co-existence between tangata whenua and those who arrived later and who were also wanting to make  a new home for themselves in Aotearoa.

Co-governance is thus a relational model premised on the Tiriti principles of mutuality and interdependence – the only ‘pre-requisites’, for making the model work, are kindness, compassion, fairness, humility, courage, ethical standards . . .  What we see within those organisations and entities where co-governance is working well, are easy, effective, mutually respectful, mutually enjoyable, equitable relationships and why - because co-governance is not about asset ownership it is about the partnership relationship necessary for responsible governance or stewardship.

(e.g. Waikato River Authority, Western Springs College – two schools, one governance entity,).

So what does all of this have to do with us here and now?  You may recall much earlier I mentioned the words, ‘together we have a job to do’ . . .

I haven’t spoken as I have this evening for the sake of merely fulfilling a promise to contribute to the Annual Peace Lecture but rather by way of having thought very deeply about what it is in Aotearoa today which is undermining, threatening, precluding that deep inner peace I believe the faith filled human heart so instinctively yearns for.

I am Maori, I am a woman but more importantly I am the fiercely protective grandmother of 15 absolutely fabulous, talented, kind-hearted, generous spirited young mokopuna – all of whom are Maori and many of whom are also Pasefika. I am determined they will not have their pathways in life restricted, threatened, delimited by those who consider their humanity less worthy, less deserving, less capable. Clearly given all I have just described and given the irrefutable evidence that racism in Aotearoa is right now being deliberately and very dangerously politically incited by a range of actors, then my mokopuna are potentially at risk and I will not stand by idly and wait for them to be wounded by it.

I have deliberately raised up the issues affecting Maori both historically and in our times because from my read of the past 20 years of these lectures there has never been a focus upon the myriad ways in which peace by any definition remains such an elusive possibility for the first people of this land. What saddens me more is that it has taken the heart and the voice of a wahine Maori to raise these up especially when we collectively as peoples of faith know that when one among us is stumbling then the collective remains unstable. For it occurs to me that if we are failing or even inadvertently choosing not to notice the plight of tangata whenua, then what about all those who in our nation are also right now profoundly vulnerable, including, especially my Muslim sisters and brothers, my LGBTQ sisters and brothers, my migrant sisters and brothers – all of whom also have a human right, a legal right or indeed a birth right, to be in this land and to live lives characterised by dignity, freedom and decency?

My urging therefore is for us as peoples of faith, to mobilise ourselves with profound urgency, to identify, to strategize and to act more closely together to push back against the obvious sources of enduring harm to those already systemically disadvantaged. We have to get much smarter, much braver, more visible and much, much more radical in our thinking and in our anti-racism being and doing!

I do want to mention my admiration for the courage and determination of many of my Pakeha colleagues here at Otago University for their efforts in this regard. In the past few years of my tenure here I have witnessed and experienced their allyship with deep admiration and with gratitude. They are the ones now also challenging systemic racism, confronting structural injustice, advocating for the transformations needed to give full authentic effect to the development and implantation of policies and practices reflective of Tiriti based equity outcomes. They are the ones therefore also bearing the inevitable brunt of an endless barrage of criticism, vilification, threats to their professional status and subsequently, to their wellbeing. And so to all my professional colleagues, many of you now as treasured friends, I salute you for the example you are setting among our peers in other universities across Aotearoa.

Advocacy for the moral right has always been costly – we know that, it comes with our faith based lifetime subscriptions!

But I do think we have become unduly passive over time, for how else could we have even inadvertently overlooked the relentlessly elusive prospects of peace for tangata whenua here in Aotearoa.

Now, I have not come with a 10 point plan for addressing the issues for this is what we are required to work out together. In closing however what I do have are just a couple of urgings to help us begin that new journey together.

  1. That becoming Tiriti literate becomes mandatory for all within faith based communities because then we would all realise that Te Tiriti like most legal ‘Treaties’, is in fact the most effective organisational tool at our immediate disposal for achieving equity. We would also soon realise however that you cannot achieve equity based justice by applying Te Tiriti within an existing inequitable system. First things first – institutional transformation thus becomes imperative! As the inimitable Tina Ngata reminds us, “it is in its ubiquity that the power of racism rests. It is the systems that refuse to accept its presence, even in the face of it, which allow racism to not only be maintained but to proliferate”. And further, “it is the society and organisations which always point to others but never to themselves that fail to dismantle it and permit its presence as the default experience for everyone who isn’t white.
  1. That we take to heart the critical teachings left by Moana Jackson, exemplary gentle man and outstanding Tiriti exponent.  Treaties he reminded “are not settled, they are honoured”. In so saying he corrected the commonly asserted and utterly incorrect Crown mantra to do with ‘full and final settlement’. This is a phrase forced into all Treaty negotiations and all it does is fuel the racist assumption that somehow Maori are getting more than our financial share from the government coffers. 

Perhaps Moana’s greatest gift and challenge however to tangata Tiriti was to require honesty about the situation and to be willing to change. He made us understand that Māori being able to live as Māori in our own country is essential for peace and justice — and that tangata Tiriti must face up to how they are preventing this from happening.

I can picture Moana saying in that beautiful gentle deliberate way he spoke that courage and bravery are just the deep breath taken before starting something difficult.

And so my closing question to us all - are we as peoples of faith ready to take that deep breath together?  Surely, as with Maya Angelou, we know that history despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, it need not be lived again.

Friends, I leave the last word, again, to Maya Angelou – a powerfully aspirational  poem for our collective consideration and ultimately I pray someday soon, it will be for our speaking one to another.


We, angels and mortals
Believers and non-believers
Look heavenward and
Speak the word aloud
We look at our world
And speak the word aloud
We look at each other
Then into ourselves
And we say without shyness
Or apology or hesitation
Peace my Brother
Peace my sister
Peace my soul . . .