St Joseph’s in Upper Hutt made last Sunday, 5 November, a day of peace and remembrance of New Zealand’s great resistance movement at Parihaka.
When most people were celebrating Guy Fawkes, St Joseph’s chose to mark the anniversary of this much more significant event for Aotearoa New Zealand.
On 5 November 1881 the Taranaki Māori settlement of Parihaka was invaded by hundreds of government troops. They came to confiscate the land and drive out the Māori people. Instead of an armed resistance, Te Whiti o Rongomain and Tohu Kakahi encouraged their people to use nonviolent resistance.
Approximately 2,000 Māori sat peacefully in front of their marae. Children were playing games. Behind them several hundred women were weaving, singing and praying. Then came the men sitting passively unarmed in the face of the invaders’ guns.
They sat while several hundred arrests were made, and their homes and crops destroyed. Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested and led away. All were sent to jails in the South Island. There were no trials or court cases. Many never returned having died in the severe South Island winters.
Most New Zealanders now appreciate the widespread confiscation of land was a blot on our early colonial history. Te Whiti and Tohu had heard the gospel message and teachings of Jesus Christ from the missionaries. They believed the message of peace, justice and non-violence. They are models for us today. Parihaka still remains both a place and a symbol of nonviolence.
The parish’s social justice and youth groups combined to organise the event on Sunday afternoon. Guest speakers were Alan Ware from the Peace Foundation and Parihaka specialist George Noanoa.