Time to say a prayer for our country
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.”