I’m not Maaori, but when I go on to a marae, I face the haka powhiri and acknowledge the welcome, I take my shoes off when entering the wharenui, and I don’t sit on the tables in the wharekai.
I’m not religious but when I go to a church for weddings, christenings or funerals, I bow my head during prayers and pay my respects to the hosts, their traditions and their ceremonial space.
I haven’t been to war, but if I’m with old soldiers at the RSA at 6pm I stand and face the torch of remembrance and observe one minute’s silence.
I stand for the national anthem of whatever country I am visiting, and when I go to see them play against (and hopefully lose to) New Zealand.
I’m not of aboriginal descent, but when I worked in Australia and was ‘on country’ with indigenous people, I delivered a Welcome to Country to recognise the traditional owners of the land and joined their smoking ceremonies.
I’m not Indonesian, but when I worked in Jakarta I wore batik long-sleeve shirts to formal government meetings and actively worked on understanding local cultural frameworks. When I was invited to visit a mosque, I dressed appropriately and then removed my shoes and hat going in.
In all these situations, I have endeavoured to show basic human respect for how people of other cultures and faiths live their lives.
Respect doesn’t compromise my identity, my origins or the values that underpin my life or community. It does not represent, as the terrorist invader of Christchurch and his ilk would have you think, that we are losing our ‘New Zealand-ness’ or our ‘Western-ness’.
Our ability to be inclusive, as a nation, as a global community, requires us all to try our best to understand and show respect for cultures, experiences and traditions different to our own. Not to disassociate or put distance between us, but to seek and demonstrate a greater understanding and care for each other.
Because mutual respect for our differences creates the sense of unity that confirms that our humanity is what we have in common.
That is why when the Christchurch attack happened last month, we immediately asked ourselves here, what can Momentum Waikato do to respond positively, within our remit to build ‘A Better Waikato for everyone, forever’?
A week later, we launched the ‘The Waikato Inclusion Fund – embracing our diverse communities / He aroha naa Waikato – Haapaingia ngaa haapori tuaakiri manomano’, to support initiatives that will build understanding and acceptance between and amongst Waikato communities. Find out more here, and a big thank you to those who have already donated.
CEO Momentum Waikato