An ecumenical peace action group has been formed in Upper Hutt after a highly successful Peace Day on 5 November focusing on the peaceful resistance which occurred on that day in 1881 at Parihaka.
As the rest of the country celebrated Guy Fawkes with fireworks,St Joseph’s parish’s Justice, Peace and Development group joined members of the neighbouring St Hilda’s Anglican congregation to organise the thought-provoking and creative day which attracted people from different church communities and cultures within the Upper Hutt area.
During the day the participants reflected on and prayed for peace and lit a peace wreath, made of many small candles, from Upper Hutt’s Uniting Parish. St Joseph’s Parish youth were also involved in the day and offered the group a sung reflection on peace.
Parish priest Fr Ron Bennett welcomed the group. Morna Taute, T√É‚Ç¨√É¬∂ranga Māori (Adviser) for the archdiocese, responded to this welcome with a karakia and waiata, before welcoming Rev Charles Noanoa, an Anglican Minister from Taita. Rev Charles evoked the atmosphere at Parihaka on the day the soldiers came and the brave response by the local community to face this threat with peaceful hospitality.
He told the participants of what happened at Parihaka which led them to consider how they could learn from this history and use similar peaceful action in New Zealand and internationally today. It was acknowledged that peaceful protest in the face of conflict is not necessarily greeted with a favourable response, but history shows that in the long term it offers a better opportunity for lasting peace.
Later in the day members of the Peace Foundation told the gathering about the elements of peaceful protest. They talked of their work in schools teaching children how to mediate in disputes between individuals. They showed us how mediation can be used at all levels and gave examples of when it was used successfully between countries in conflict.
A highlight of the afternoon was the entertainment offered by the Zimbabwean choir. Members of the choir had been present for most of the day and their input was appreciated.
The St Joseph’s JPD group will coordinate the next gathering of the new Peace Action Group and hope to repeat the Peace Day next year.