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TAGS: Indigenous people; Interviews; Maoris; Radio interviews
LOCATIONS: New Zealand
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The transcript of an interview with two New Zealand Bahá'ís, Huti Toataua and Hedi Moani, aired by the New Zealand National Radio show "Faith and Works" (May, 1995) on "the growing relationship between the Maori community and the Bahá'í Faith."
Though the dialogue appears disjointed, no text is missing. The ellipses (...) and em-dashes (--) represent this. [-J.W.]

Faith and Works:
Maoris and the Baha'i Faith

Hello now to Andrew McRae for this Monday's Faith and Works.


Hello Wayne. Tonight, in Faith and Works, the growing relationship between the Maori community and the Bahá'í Faith.

Unity through diversity, one of the main principles of the Bahá'í Faith, strikes a chord with indigenous peoples world-wide, and Maori appear to be no exception. Bahá'í Faith have been conducting a series of hui around the country, where it runs what it call Nine-Day Institutes, an intensive spiritual process open to all.

Conducting the Nine-Day institutes in the Wanganui region over the last few weeks have been Bahá'ís Huti Toataua and Hedi Moani. Huti Toataua believes the Faith will develop within the Maori community because diverseness within society is encouraged.


It seems to be that, with a lot of the conflict and the seeking of the Maori for justice, there appears to be a growing interest. Maori are looking for new ways of addressing justice for themselves and their people as well as looking for some kind of system that's based on spirituality. In this search it has led a lot of Maori people back to their own Maori Faiths which has been on... ...when you look at religious base a lot of our Maori are going back to nga Atua Maori.

With some of the activities that we've been carrying out recently we've discovered, with many Maori that come to our hui or wananga that we hold, they relate very well and very easily to the spiritual base, the spiritual teachings of the Bahá'í Faith.


In terms of the concept we hear about in recent times -- land occupations, that sort of thing -- how can the Bahá'í Faith help the Maori community reassert...


The issue of justice is one -- where Maori are seeking justice. That's in line the principle of the Bahá'í Faith which is justice -- one of the principles. But, at the same time, Maori are very much encouraged to be obedient to the government.

Again, back to the principle of unity in diversity, at the same time we're able to also to hold fast to our tikanga, our kawa, our land, our traditions, our culture in every way possible. But at the same time it's quite a fine line to walk, as a Maori and as a Bahá'í, to be obedient to the government -- being aware of the history and yet also finding justice in whatever way we can and that means the true justice being what is right the people, yeah.


To start with, we look at the reason why the Maoris (are) interest(ed) in the Bahá'í Faith. And it's quite interesting that the Bahá'í Faith is the only other religion than Christianity that, in any significant way, has penetrated the heart of Maoridom, and the Pacific region as well. So we can look into that and say why. And one of the interesting aspects of the Faith, and its relationship to the Maori culture, is that the Bahá'í Faith has not come to this country with a culture. Christianity came after almost 2000 years, and what came to New Zealand about 150 years ago was a Western Christianity. It was a religion that already had married and had children by a culture. It was totally amalgamated with a culture. Now the Bahá'í Faith comes here without a culture. We don't have a waka or a canoe that we carry and we call it our culture or canoe. So the Maoris can keep their waka. They can keep their culture and background and heritage and ancestry. And just accept the principles of a new and living and a pure religion. There is no competition with their culture.


Within the Maori community are you finding that more are approaching you in recent years?


We've had some exciting events happenoing in regard to teaching the Maori, and it's at a tender and developing stage, and maybe in the months to come we'll have a lot more to speak of in that regard. I think our Maori Bahá'ís are going through a very exciting process of Nine-Day Teaching Institutes and this process that was brought here to New Zealand by Hazel Lovelace, who's an Alaskan Tlingit Indian, she left this beautiful legacy with us that's been going on in Alaska for about 20 years or more.

And this process that, for nine days, a number of people get together, often on a marae. And it's particularly apt to the Maori culture and the marae style. And they say prayers, they meditate, they read of the Holy Writings and they share their thoughts about that. And, in this way, they rediscover their spirituality. They rediscover a new source of strength and hope and revivification in fact.

And we've seen tremendous results come out. And we've had ten of these already (that) have taken place throughout New Zealand, and there are many more booked. so we forsee that for years to come this will be a tool used especially by the Maori Bahá'ís throughout New Zealand and particularly on the maraes to revitalise the community. Both Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís are now attending these huis.

Huti: It seems to me that my people are looking. They're searching for answers elsewhere because they're actually not finding them in the system where we are now. There seems to be a great need for getting back to a spiritual base. So a lot of Maori who are not Bahá'í are really excited about Nine-Day Institutes; having seen the results from some of their own friends or whanau, and are really keen to perhaps encourage more in their community. yeah, it's a very simple process.

    Glossary: (these are only rough translations)

    hui - gathering nga
    Atua Maori - traditional Maori Gods.
    wananga - study group
    tikanga - customs
    kawa - protocol
    marae - meeting-ground
    whanau - extended family

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