Let’s stop the war in New Zealand

by Fr Wayne Healy
It’s a sad state of affairs to read and see nation after nation in conflict with each other, such as Syria, Ukraine, Russia, Afghanistan — and the Palestinian territory, Gaza — to
name some. We all have our opinions as to what should be done or what is not being done to end this violence and bloodshed so that peace, justice and reconciliation can come.
What are we doing to stop the war in our own country?” It’s a matter of conscience. The silence is deafening.
Nigel Latta in his TV programme on August 19, Killing our Kids, said police are called out 90,000 times a year because of child and family violence.
The head of the Police Department said “the number would be five times more than this if they were all reported”.
That makes the total number around 450,000 cases a year. Surely we all agree this is a terrible indictment on our country.
It’s easier to talk about other countries’ atrocities than to look deeply at the blight of violence meted out daily on innocent children here.
I wrote on this issue some time ago and it grieves me to see little change.
When one reads the statistics regarding family and child violence, it shows we are not the
peaceful nation we think we are. Violence, drugs, booze, family and domestic violence, especially towards children, have become like a cancerous disease.
The second verse of our National Anthem reads:
“God defend our free land,
from disunion, envy, hate
and corruption guard our state.
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.”

Those words are in English and Maori, but no matter what language they are sung or spoken in, we are all citizens and everyone has the responsibility to play his or her part in
bringing peace, justice, and reconciliation for all.
In our parish of Oamaru we try to alleviate poverty and hardship through our various groups and counselling services. This is also done by other churches, organisations and groups, but it appears to do little to stem the domestic and child violence that is endemic in our country.
There is a great deal done by government agencies, but is it enough? Do those agencies need more staff, more expertise to train new recruits?
Leading up to the elections on Saturday September 20, the top billing has been “dirty politics by dirty means”, and promises by all parties of what they will do if they are elected.
But what about us, and the children who are violated and abused?
I hope candidates from all parties give this sordid problem top priority and invest in doing more for the children — not in word, but in action. I hope government bodies hold cultural
forums with TV and ask the hard questions.
It’s not a matter of blame and shame, but finding better ways to alleviate the
suffering of our vulnerable children.
Fr Wayne Healey is the parish priest of St Patrick’s Basilica, Oamaru.

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