A 14-year project to translate important Bahá'i Faith writings into te reo Māori was celebrated at Pūrekireki Marae on Sunday with the launch of Ētahi Karakia Bahá'i — the book of Bahá'i Prayers.

The translations have been undertaken by Dr Tom Roa of Ngāti Maniapoto and Waikato.

With a PhD in translation and role as Manukura (Associate Professor) in the University of Waikato's Māori and Indigenous Studies faculty, Tom has been at the forefront of bringing Māori language to the mainstream over many years.

Etahi Karakia Baha'i translator Dr Tom Roa speaking on the marae. Whakaahua / Dean Taylor
Etahi Karakia Baha'i translator Dr Tom Roa speaking on the marae. Whakaahua / Dean Taylor

In a recent interview he said: "I believe I have a responsibility to be a cultural mediator between the Māori and Pākehā worlds.

Advertisement

"I come back to the idea of mana with regard to these two very different worlds.

"The mana of each world is maintained and the integrity of each mana is acknowledged," he said.

Making the opening mihi at Purekireki Marae was Gilbert Paki, whose ancestors come from Kāwhia. Whakaahua / Dean Taylor
Making the opening mihi at Purekireki Marae was Gilbert Paki, whose ancestors come from Kāwhia. Whakaahua / Dean Taylor

Working on the writings of Bahá'i Faith has meant also acting as cultural mediator between Māori language and Persian and Arabic.

It meant working closely with members of the New Zealand Bahá'i community — in particular Farzbod Taefi who is of Persian origin.

He says it was an illuminating experience for him and gave him a greater respect for the depth of te reo Māori.

Waiata during Sunday's pōwhiri and celebrations. Whakaahua / Dean Taylor
Waiata during Sunday's pōwhiri and celebrations. Whakaahua / Dean Taylor

Bahá'i Prayers are taken from the writings of central Bahá'i figures Bahá'u'lláh, The Báb and 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

They have been translated into hundreds of languages as part of Bahá'i belief in the inevitability of the unification or 'oneness' of the human race.

Farzbod says Tom took great care to ensure the absolute correct Māori word was chosen to convoy the intended meanings from Bahá'u'lláh, The Báb and `Abdu'l-Bahá.

Often this meant deep conversations between the two men as Farzbod would look at the original writings in Persian or Arabic, rather than relying on the English translation, for Tom to find the right word.

He believes the natural affinity of Māori to the teachings and beliefs of Bahá'i makes the new translations more profound.

Farzbod also believes te reo Māori has a depth of spirit, and even though it wasn't originally a written language, it provides enlightenment for Māori and the people of the Pacific that is foretold and part of the unification.

The launch of Ētahi Karakia Bahá'i brought Bahá'i supporters to Pirongia — to share cultures and spiritualism.

A powhiri at Pūrekireki Marae was followed by hakari, then time for readings and discussion — before a lunch based on Persian cooking style.