Renowned Anglican theologian Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel has set out the challenges and possibilities for peace in Aotearoa New Zealand in the 2023 Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group’s peace lecture.
This 30 September Dr Te Paa Daniel as Mareikura or Director of Te Ao o Rongomaraeroa, the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, became the first Māori peace lecturer in the Interfaith lecture series’ 22 year history.
Jeny began her talk with some words from her own whakapapa as a peacemaker and shared the greeting “kia tau te rangimarie”, which she explained offers the Salaam of God, the Shalom of God, into the conversation between peoples and religions in Aotearoa New Zealand as well as around the globe.
While each year the Peace Lecture has taken turns to share insights from across the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, none of the speakers up till now have been tangata whenua.
Archdeacon Susan Wallace from Te Hui Amorangi o Te Waipounamu says that it's not uncommon for internationally-focused projects like this to overlook Māori voices.
“Part of this is the sense that Māori are not part of the global scene, they are seen as local only.”
Dr Te Paa Daniel’s 2023 lecture laid out the need for all discussions on peace in Aotearoa New Zealand to look closely into the racism embedded in our colonially-structured systems that place barriers in the way of self-determination, health and wellbeing of Māori whānau.
“I am Maori, I am a woman but more importantly I am the fiercely protective grandmother of fifteen absolutely fabulous, talented, kind-hearted, generous spirited young mokopuna – all of whom are Maori and many of whom are also Pasefika.”
“…given the irrefutable evidence that racism in Aotearoa is right now being deliberately and very dangerously politically incited by a range of actors, then my mokopuna are potentially at risk and I will not stand by idly and wait for them to be wounded by it.”
“I am determined they will not have their pathways in life restricted, threatened, delimited by those who consider their humanity less worthy, less deserving, less capable.”
Dr Te Paa Daniel’s wide-ranging presentation also pointed to the need for people of faith to stand up as courageous and prophetic voices for peace and justice, particularly to call for peace and a change to the conditions that undergird peace, which in this context means honouring the respectful partnerships between peoples outlined in Te Tiriti.
Rev Shari Roy (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) who is Māori chaplain at Otago Polytechnic and Otago University, said that as someone from a family that was not keen on being activist, she was inspired by Jenny’s call to step up.
“I had one takeaway from the lecture and that was to be brave. Be brave to look at what it takes to cultivate peace – in our community and in our families. To disturb the status quo, we need to be brave.”
The Interfaith peace lecture has been held since the founding of the Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group back in 2001, established in the wake of 9/11 as a means to build peaceful relationships between religious communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel (Te Rarawa) is a scholar and a teacher, a public theologian and professional consultant in higher education. A trailblazing indigenous woman, she taught for five years and was then appointed Ahorangi (Dean) of Te Rau Kahikatea at St John's Theological College in Auckland for 18 years from 1995 until 2013. She was the first indigenous lay woman appointed to lead an Anglican seminary anywhere in the worldwide Anglican Communion.