Watching a morning news programme not so long ago, I could not believe what I was seeing or hearing. The Reverend Clay Nelson, an associate priest at St Matthews
in the City in Auckland, said the 'Bible in Schools' programme is an imposition on the human rights of children as it restricts the freedom of other religions, which is protected under the Bill of Rights
He went on to argue that to have religious freedom you need to have freedom from the religion of others. The secularist world view behind his comments seeks to twist the idea of freedom of religion into freedom from religion. The consequence of reinterpreting freedom of religion in this way would be to push religious language, ideas and conversation completely out of the public square and relegate them to private homes and institutions.

Christian witness and mission in this environment would be profoundly di cult. It could come to be seen as out-dated,
insensitive, intolerant, and potentially dangerous.

What does this have to do with the Treaty of Waitangi?

In the English version of the Treaty there are three articles. In the Maori version, a fourth article was added to the Maori text of the Treaty signed at Waitangi, at the request of Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier. In Maori, the fourth article said "The Governor says that the several faiths (beliefs) of England, of the Wesleyans, of Rome and also of Maori custom shall alike be protected by him". This article did two things. It guaranteed religious freedom for all those in the emerging society and, in doing so, it gave all members of the country the freedom to practice customs and religious commitments in public and private.

As Chief Judge Eddie Durie expressed it in his Waitangi Day address in 1989:

"We [Maori] must not forget that the Treaty is not just a Bill of Rights for Maori. It is a Bill of Rights for Pakeha too. It is the Treaty that gives Pakeha the right to be here. Without the Treaty there would be no lawful authority for the Pakeha presence in this part of the South Pacifi c. The Pakeha here are not like the Indians of Fiji, or the French in New Caledonia. Our Prime Minister can stand proud in Pacifi c forums, and in international forums too, not in spite of the Treaty but because of it. We must remember that if we are the tangata whenua, the original people, then the Pakeha are the tangata Tiriti, those who belong to the land by right of that Treaty." (Church Leaders' Statement for 1990, p.10).

As Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriri, our freedoms to practice Maori custom and Christian faith within New Zealand society
are enshrined in (the Maori version of ) the Treaty of Waitangi.

New Zealand is becoming increasingly secularised. As that secularism increasingly hardens at its militantly atheistic edges,
we must remember that our founding document preserves and protects our freedom to live and speak of and for Christ in
New Zealand society. The signi cance of the 'fourth article of the Treaty' for Christian life and mission will only grow in the
years ahead. What does The Treaty of Waitangi have to do with contemporary mission in New Zealand? A huge amount.

Mark Grace is a member of the Te Arawa tribe and works for Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship leading their national
mission work to graduates in the workplace, post graduate students and academics. See website:

Mark is an Elder at Feilding Bible Chapel.
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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