WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Guy Fawkes or Parihaka?

Cecily McNeill

A Wellington priest has suggested commemorating Parihaka on 5 November as a more relevant milestone in New Zealand’s history.

Fr Gerard Burns of St Anne’s Newtown told his congregation last month that Guy Fawkes was suspect as an event for Catholics to celebrate.

Guy Fawkes was found under Parliament Buildings in London in 1604 with gunpowder and matches and the intention of blowing up the structure when the king was likely to be visiting. This was to protest at the lack of tolerance King James I showed towards Catholics following the persecutions under Elizabeth I.

‘There are various questions about this plot with some suggesting it was organised by people wanting to convince the king of Catholic perfidy and to continue restrictive laws against them.’

Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were arrested, tortured and killed and the king declared 5 November a commemoration day with bonfires.

‘In the early years effigies of both the pope and Guy Fawkes were burnt … These days in New Zealand days it’s usually just an excuse for a fireworks display.

Fr Gerard points out that 5 November is also an important anniversary because it commemorates the suppression in 1881 of the Taranaki Māori non-violent resistance movement at Parihaka.

The story of Parihaka is becoming better known in New Zealand these days. Following a government military campaign against Māori in Taranaki in the 1860s much land was confiscated.

In the shadow of Mt Taranaki two Māori leaders, Te Whiti of Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi founded a refuge for dispossessed Māori from near and far.

Their teachings combined both Māori heritage and Christianity as they sought to make a new, non-violent community where Māori could be themselves and support themselves as their world was being destroyed.

When settlers began to survey land close to the village, the Parihaka people resisted by ploughing the fields, taking down fences and uprooting survey pegs.

After occasional arrests, the army eventually invaded Parihaka village on 5 November 1881 to arrest the people and especially their leaders.

Although Parihaka survives, the loss of its land after 1881 made it economically unviable. Descendants of the great prophets of active non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, have noted how much the Parihaka example predates the work of these two people.

Fr Gerard says in terms of the sharing of leadership roles which is starting to happen in the Church today, Parihaka is a good example of how to involve a large number of people in the sort of servant leadership which Christ called us to.