Time to say a prayer for our coun­try

Central Leader - - Front Page -

I was asked to read the prayer for our coun­try at the lo­cal An­zac Day com­mem­o­ra­tions in Man­gere Bridge where I live.

It was a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence that re­minded me that war and rugby were the cat­a­lysts for a closer re­la­tion­ship be­tween Maori and Pakeha.

Our great­est politi­cian Sir Api­rana Ngata said Maori go­ing to war was the price of cit­i­zen­ship: “We will lose some of our most promis­ing young leaders. We have lost a few al­ready. But we will gain the re­spect of our Pakeha broth­ers and the fu­ture of our race as a com­po­nent and re­spected part of the New Zealand peo­ple will be less pre­car­i­ous.”

There’s no doubt he was right.

And it’s on An­zac Day more than any other that Maori and Pakeha come to­gether. It would’ve been easy for Maori sol­diers to be re­sent­ful, not to the Pakeha broth­ers they fought with, but to gov­ern­ments that treated them like sec­ond­class cit­i­zens when they re­turned.

Maori sol­diers couldn’t get any gov­ern­ment help, with just about every­one who ap­plied for land un­der the repa­tri­a­tion pro­gramme re­fused, and they weren’t even al­lowed to buy al- co­hol to take home from their lo­cal pub.

Maori sol­diers had more than earned the right to take their drink home like their Pakeha mates.

They had been lauded by Gen­eral Frey­berg: “No in­fantry had a more dis­tin­guished record or saw more fight­ing, or alas had such heavy ca­su­al­ties, than the Maori Bat­tal­ion.”

Even one of the en­emy’s great­est sol­diers, Field Mar­shall Rom- mell, said the bat­tal­ion was the great­est fight­ing force he had ever seen.

“Give me the Maori Bat­tal­ion and I will con­quer the world,” he said.

Un­for­tu­nately suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments failed to show Maori sol­diers the same re­spect and treated them de­spi­ca­bly.

But de­spite that Maori sol­diers main­tained their dig­nity.

Rarely did you hear them run down the Pakeha sol­diers they fought with. Their bond was forged through sac­ri­fice.

So when I read the prayer I thought about that bond, the cur­rent re­la­tion­ship be­tween us and chal­lenges ahead.

It’s ap­pro­pri­ate that I end with the last para­graph of that prayer for our coun­try: “In­crease our trust in one an­other, strengthen our quest for jus­tice and bring us to unity and a com­mon pur­pose. You have made us of one blood; make us also of one mind.”

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