Wednesday, December 04, 2013

strengthening our constitution

On Saturday Friends in the Far North hosted a workshop in Kerikeri looking at the 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Treaty of Waitangi (there being two versions, one in each language - and they don't match), our country's unwritten constitution and He Whakaputanga, the 1835 Declaration of Independence.

There were twelve of us participating - half Quakers, half interested locals attracted by an short plug in the local newspaper. So with David James of the Rowan Partnership being our Quaker facilitator we just outnumbered the visitors! Some Friends had expressed trepidation about advertising locally, worried that those who just wanted to rant would come along, but those fears were unfounded. Our visitors included Tangata Whenua (local Māori), New Zealanders of European descent and, like many of the Quakers present, someone who had emigrated to this country.

Much of the benefit of the day was gaining a better understanding of why the constitutional system we have doesn't work, but aside from that the things that really touched my heart rather than my head were comments made by two of our visitors.

One, who had said in the introductions that he'd 'come to be a Quaker for the day' shared at lunchtime how he had been to a Quaker Meeting once before down in Palmerston North out of curiosity as he'd been staying along the road from the Meeting House. Like many people on their first encounter with silent/waiting worship he sat there for a while wondering 'when it was going to start', and it was only when Friends shared afterwards their 'almost ministry' or thoughts during Meeting that he realised that they'd 'all been connecting with their wairua together, and that was really neat' (wairua being spirit). He put it so simply, yet really encapsulated what it is we do in Meeting for Worship - I've heard it said by several people in the past, the Māori language has a way for describing the spiritual, and Quakerly concepts, that leaves English looking clumsy. As a Yearly Meeting this really is something we should make better use of!

Another of the visitors was a local kaumatua, a Māori elder, he described the values he sees as enshrined in He Whakaputanga.

Tapu - respecting that which is sacred in the places and people involved; in doing so you acknowledge and uphold their mana, their self-worth and status (a poor translation, but English doesn't really have an equivalent concept). Tika, doing things right shows pono, integrity or faith in what is being said and done; sharing aroha, love, between all of us as we work towards hohourongo which (again poorly) translates as reconciliation between us, or forgiveness.

It was a priviledge to have him with us, and even more so to hear him at the end of the day checking he had contact details for the local Quakers sorted as 'our people need to meet with you people more often like this and see how it is done'. I felt that we really had been able to meet together in the spirit of He Whakaputanga, and had at least done something to help uphold our YMs commitment to honouring our Te Tiriti obligations and the constitutional review process.

As goodbyes were being said we felt like there had been some connections made that would hopefully lead to our paths crossing again, but even if not our wairua had become entwined and would travel on within each other regardless.