February 25, 2011

Global Action Lived Locally: A Case Study from Aotearoa, New Zealand

Located in the South Pacific, communities of Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand are found throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and in Tonga and Samoa. A sister is also missioned to Chile. The Nga Whaea Atawhai / Sisters of Mercy first arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1850 after the Carlow Mercy congregation received an appeal from Aotearoa New Zealand’s first Bishop, Jean Baptiste Pompallier, to come and minister to Maori women and children. This commitment to ministry for and with Maori women and children has been re-claimed in recent decades and can be seen in the congregation’s mission statement, ministry, and bilingual communications.

The Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand are guided by questions and commitments articulated in their 2009 Chapter Statement:

Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa
Sisters of Mercy New Zealand
Centered in God
Impelled to be Mercy
Keeping hope alive
In our world today

How are we to be together?
How are we to be in mission?
How are we to give expression to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in our time?

The following profile on Tui Cadogan’s ministry on behalf of Maori rights is an example of the Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand living out their commitment to Mercy and the Maori people.

Tui Cadogan is pictured second from left along with the Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aoteoroa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand leadership team.

Sr. Tui Cadogan, a member of the Mercy leadership team in Aotearoa New Zealand, is working also on Maori rights. Tui herself is Maori and is chairperson of her tribe of Kati Mahaki. Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand, suffer severe discrimination in the country in terms of unemployment, health issues, lack of education, homelessness, lack of social services, violence against women and children, and women as the perpetrators of violence.

As chair of her tribe, Tui has regular meetings with heads of government departments, particularly the Department of Conservation, to look at how conservation policies impact on Maori. Many Maori have land that sits within the Westland National Park and is therefore subject to the regulations of the Conservation Act. Maori struggle to get access to the precious traditional jade, known as pounamu, that is in on these lands as conservation regulations make it almost impossible because the natural habitat must not be disturbed.

Tui and her tribe campaign with others to stop the use of the highly toxic chemical 1080, which is being used as a means of extermination of possums. According to government sources possums are major carriers of TB to the areas in which they breed. The chemical being used to exterminate them has been contaminating water, endangering species including two species of Kiwi bird, killing farm animals, deer, dogs etc. Through campaigning Tui and other activists have managed to get the Department of Conservation to divert the use of these chemicals from waterways, within a certain radius of where people live, and away from highways.

Kiwi Bird.

Tui is also a member of the Kiwi Taxon Group which works to save endangered Kiwis from extinction. Birds are moved in pairs to predator free island locations to enable them to breed safely. The tribe is also working on a joint venture with a local tourist company on a project to enable visitors to see the iconic endangered Kiwi in conditions which do not threaten the birds. Through this project they raise awareness about endangered species and raise some funds for their works.

At the international level Tui is part of an Indigenous Peoples Network. This group raises issues of indigenous rights, conservation, and endangered species at the UN. They are currently looking at a study on the Doctrine of Discovery, which is a summary report claiming that this ideology dispossessed indigenous peoples around the world of their lands and therefore valuable resources. They will lobby their politicians and UN in relation to the contents of the summary report on this issue. 

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