Hui focuses on Christian heritage of the Treaty

Have Christians kept up to date in the development of a theology related
to the Treaty of Waitangi?

Manuka Henare

This was the question posed by Auckland University Associate Professor Manuka Henare at an event called “Being true to the Gospel and honouring the Treaty of Waitangi” — a hui in Auckland on October 4. The hui was called to celebrate
200 years of the Gospel coming to Aotearoa New Zealand.
“The hui was a real success, bringing together representatives from a wide
range of Christian churches,” said one of the organisers, Susan Healy. “In spite
of the awful weather on October 4, more than 90 people took part in the hui.”
The organisers said Christians were closely involved in the events around
the Treaty signing and have, therefore, a special role of guardianship for the
Treaty relationship.
Associate Professor Henare agreed that Christians do have spiritual guardianship
of the Treaty. “It’s always been referred to as the kawenata — the covenant
— and most of our Maori leaders in 1840 were persuaded to view the Treaty as a covenant between the British Crown and Maori under the eyes of God. Given that as a starting point, how is the covenant working today?” he asked.
Mr Henare said that in the 1980s to the 1990s there was a hui whanau and
huge meetings and parish discussion groups focusing on the social teachings
of the Catholic Church as they related to the treaty.
“Christian theology as developed by the churches then was really that we should understand our history, we should understand who we are, we should understand what Maori are saying and therefore we should engage with Maori in understanding the Treaty itself,” he said.
That was 25 to 30 years ago. “There’s nothing that leaps out at me in terms
of contemporary theological language,” he said. “Who is sitting down and thinking it through? How are we as Christian communities living the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?”
He said the jurisprudential and the historical notion of the Treaty now is
that the Treaty always speaks.
“The Treaty is not solely just a historical document. It actually is forever a
contemporary document. That is why it continues to speak. So each generation
must listen to the voice of the Treaty of Waitangi and, in their time, make
decisions according to the principles announced to their time,” he said.
But at the level of the thinkers, nothing seemed to be going on, he said.
“Look at Treaty settlements — how well are those progressing?”
He said Maori may be getting around $1 billion to $2 billion in settlement,
which sounds huge, but in terms of what they lost, that could be considered
a repayment of only one to two per cent. He said it is part of Catholic
social teachings to point out injustices such as those.
“Maybe that explains why poverty is rampant among Maori today. Maori have not yet fully recovered from loss of land, restructured way of life. That is what inspired me to pose this question,” he said.

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