COMMENT:

Much has been written already as we as a nation search for an understanding over the Christchurch massacre that targeted people worshipping in their way with their faith.

And perhaps more particularly in our culture, and in our history, people who worship in their place of worship see it as a sacrosanct haven – a place of safety and a place of reflection, not a place of murder and mayhem.

That an act of this violence and this violation occurred, merely exacerbates the horror of it.

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To understand our nationhood story, we should reflect on major events that helped shape who and what we are, how we express ourselves, and how we define ourselves as New Zealanders.

From a non-Māori perspective, let's start with Captain James Cook who discovered New Zealand in 1769. That event changed the destiny of these islands forever. Seventy years later, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, as part of bringing two cultures together under one leadership model.

What New Zealanders might not be aware of is that there were a range of significant battles over much of the North Island, particularly from 1856-1868. The nadir of those conflicts came after the Battle of Waeranga a Hika where that Pa was laid under siege to British colonial forces along with supporting Māori elements.

The Pa was surrendered and prisoners of war were taken. The morning after the battle, and without any due process, 79 Māori who endeavoured to defend their land were summarily executed with a bullet behind the ear. This is part of our nationhood story.

Maori Land March 1975 - approximately 3,000 Maori land marchers crossed the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Photo / Supplied
Maori Land March 1975 - approximately 3,000 Maori land marchers crossed the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Photo / Supplied

We then fast forward as a British colony to send soldiers to the Boer War (1901-1903) WW1 (1914-1919), the Great Depression, WW2, (1939-1945), Korean War (1950-1953) and Vietnam War (1963-1975).

The debate surrounding our entry into these conflicts became far more sophisticated and complex each time we deployed Kiwis. We evolved a sense of nationhood not colonialism.

When Labour Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage declared war on Germany in 1939, he broadcast this to the nation: "Where Britain goes, we go. Where she stands we stand."

By trick of Greenwich Mean Time (NZ is 12 hours ahead of the UK), New Zealand actually declared war on Germany before Great Britain.

We roll forward to the Land March led by Dame Whina Cooper in 1975, Bastion Point in 1978, the Māori Language Petition of 1979 and things became more intense around the bicultural story.

It wasn't until the David Lange administration in 1984 that a proper bicultural conversation was finally had with the New Zealand Government, and by proxy all New Zealanders.

This ensured that the history of this country could be told properly from the signing of the Treaty in 1840, rolling forward so that Māori could properly express their view of the history of this country and the wrongs perpetrated along the way.

The first two Waitangi Treaty settlements were only concluded in 1995, Waikato-Tainui and 1996 Ngāi Tahu. Our process of national evolution occurred not by violence but by considered leadership.

The country had finally come to terms with justifiable grievances of the past. A moment of history to some was a constant sense of grievance and difficulty to others.

Thousands of mourners on Rolleston Avenue during the March For Love in Christchurch. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Thousands of mourners on Rolleston Avenue during the March For Love in Christchurch. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Along with Australia, there was no doubt a white immigration policy was implemented up to the mid-1960s when Pacific Island labour was brought into the country as part of securing a cheaper labour option. Dawn raids on this community followed and the nation was horrified.

In the 1990s, we saw a large influx of Asian peoples. The fact that we continue to put people from the great sub-continent of India together with people from mainland China, and determine in our statistics counts that they are all Asian, is a travesty to two great cultures with over 5000 years of history each in their own telling and making.

Their arrival again placed our nationhood debate under some stress and we are in the process of appreciating the tremendous contribution these peoples provide in the way we conduct ourselves as New Zealanders.

The growth of those communities practising Islamic faith has grown and we as a nation have had to embrace as best we can our understanding of these folk given the significant Christian values base that underwrites our thinking, our law and the fabric of our country.

Some will argue they are atheists and agnostics, but when the chips are down and death visits, everyone seizes upon faith – everyone.

When Māori orators are taught to stand and speak on behalf of their people, the first thing we do is honour the creator of all things. Secondly we must pay homage and remembrance to those who have passed on. We must remember them because if we speak of them, they are always with us.

We are taught to conclude our speeches by saying something like: "Koutou te hunga mate. Kia koutou tatau te hunga ora. Kia tatau."

"To our beloved deceased, let them lay in their world. We in the world of the living must proceed."

And so, March 15, 2019 is a significant day in our nationhood story and it will empower us to stand up against intolerance, hate and the infliction of hurt solely because of colour, race or creed.

The embracing of our Muslim brothers and sisters who share this country is now a fait accompli and out of the deep dark cloud that visited our great country on that Friday, we must progress and seize upon the silver lining every cloud has.

Graphic / NZHerald
Graphic / NZHerald