I am not a big fan of Nationalism – too much flag-waving looks like rivalry to me and conjures unhelpful arrogance and sometimes quite uncritical or blind obedience to some of the worse aspects of what governments can do to their people and the people of other countries.
However, in New Zealand’s case, we have a national anthem which is really a prayer that invites a helpful way of being. But also, because we have two official spoken languages NZ English & NZ Maori (the other official language is sign language), we have the opportunity to unite in the manner that the prayer expresses by singing it in both languages.
Unfortunately because race relations are not always as brilliant as we would hope, there is quite a group within the majority non-Maori populace who ignore the Maori renditions and wait for the NZ English version to be sung.
I was at an event during the week when we sung both versions and I was quite disturbed by the attitude of some people near me who were quite hostile about the Maori version being sung. I found out a little later that these people were people of faith, yet they expressed things that I could only interpret as racist.
It got me thinking about Christian people and some of their attitudes, and how, in my view, there is no Biblical warrant for people of faith to be racist.
I began to wonder what part I might be able to play in enabling the congregation I have responsibility for to offer some leadership in situations where racism prevails.
Tomorrow I am going to start by inviting them to sing our national anthem in Maori… it is a little thing, but I figure that with almost all of them being non-Maori, if they can, in their various social settings, sing the anthem with confidence in Maori as well as in English they will in some small way be offering some leadership. Those acts might just enable some forward steps as we move to be a country that cherishes its diversity and further honours and respects the tangata whenua (the people of the land).
Here are the Maori words of the first verse of the anthem – the English version follows:
E Ihoa Atua,
O nga Iwi Matoura,
Ata whaka rongona;
Me aroha noa.
Kia hua ko te pai; Kia tau to atawhai;
God of nations! at Thy feet
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our Free Land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star,
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand