by ROWENA OREJANA
WELLINGTON — Two hundred Catholics gathered at Parliament grounds on March 19 to hold a picnic with a message for Parliament.
The picnic at Parliament was organised by the archdiocese’s Justice,
Peace and Development Commission to raise awareness of the issues of poverty and inequality, especially as 2014 is an election year.
Members of Parliament David Cunliffe, Hone Harawira and Russel Norman joined the picnic.
Archbishop John Dew said the event was meant to highlight the fact that there are enough resources in New Zealand for everyone to enjoy a moderate standard of living, and yet media reports put the number of people living in poverty at 600,000.
“The reason we wanted to gather for a picnic at Parliament was to
share what we have with one another, and enjoy each other’s company
and fellowship, while reflecting on the Scripture of the feeding of the 5000 where there was enough for everyone and there was even some left over,” Archbishop Dew told NZ Catholic.
“The timing and location was about highlighting our concerns over
poverty in New Zealand and the growing inequality to our community.”
Archbishop Dew also said it was about highlighting the issues to
New Zealand’s elected representatives on an evening when Parliament
Commission chair and spokesperson Shane Olsen said the event “very
much shows that the Catholic communities are aware of these issues
and want some action”.
“They are very challenging issues to deal with. Given that this is
an election year, we did identify and raise some ideas on policies across accommodation, energy costs and incomes of beneficiaries. We will be looking for policies from those parties in the next six months that address those needs,” he said.
The picnic drew inspiration from the “Loaves and Fishes” story from
the Gospel where Jesus instructed the disciples to feed a crowd of 5000 by sharing what they have.
“That actually happened here. People brought food and shared it around. We must have had close to 12 baskets left over. It seemed like it, anyway,” he said.
The executive officer of the New Zealand Council of Christian
Social Services, Trevor McGlinchey, and a beneficiary advocate, spoke of the reality faced by struggling families. Msgr
Gerard Burns explained the food sharing, and a group of Samoan youth
also presented a drama.
A happy, positive crowd stayed on to enjoy music provided by a brass band, Mr Olsen said.
Archbishop Dew thanked the members of parliament who came to greet them during their dinner break from the House.
“For those of us gathered there, it was clear that people were enjoying catching up and being together. However, our message was a serious and urgent one,” he said.
“Not to stand by while others suffer the compounding burden of poverty is important to communicate as part of living our faith,” he said.