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Hikoi of Hope
Aotereoa New Zealand, September 1998
The word "hikoi" is a Maori word, meaning a walk or march or demonstration. The Anglican Church of New Zealand organized a "Hikoi of Hope" this month. It was the largest march to Parliament in nearly a decade. Marchers started at the northern and southern ends of the country and marched on Parliament, which is conveniently in the middle (Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is at the very southernmost end of the North Island). It is a bit difficult for a person who is not a resident of New Zealand to puzzle out from the organizers' web page just what the march was all about. You can also read the coverage in the Christchurch Press Online.
This was a march for social justice. The marchers believed that the government needs to make some changes in order to better the lives of the citizens. Clearly some fraction of the government did not believe this or there would have been no need to march.
Here is a story about the Hikoi written for an Australian audience.
"The walk bringing hope to the dispossessed"
by Julia Stuart
Walking the length of the country to make a point may seem a strange thing to Australians, with your immense distances, but in New Zealand it's a way of drawing attention to an issue. It's helped by our geography, which means you can start at both ends of the country and meet in the middle, taking your point to the Parliament in Wellington.
And that's just what the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia's General Synod in May this year decided to do. A session which began with a resolution expressing concern about welfare benefit changes took off into a major debate about poverty in New Zealand and ended up with the Anglicans initiating a Hikoi of Hope, coming from the length and (as it turned out) the breadth of the country "walking for a change" towards the centre of Government. It culminates on October 1st when the many strands of the Hikoi, led by the heads of all the churches and some other faiths end up at Parliament and present their collective concerns to the representatives of political power.
It's been extraordinary. Since September 1st people have just started walking from twelve different regions. Some are going the whole way, others hand over "the care of the Hikoi" to the next town or region. Today four people entered the provincial town of Wanganui having walked the full day, and were joined by 500 locals as they walked down the main street. After a forum, speeches and a church service they rested overnight and tomorrow twelve or maybe twenty head for the next town.
Te Hikoi mo te Tumanako mo te Rawakore means "The Walk of witness bringing hope to those who have nothing". And already it's been doing just that. At every stopping place local people turn out, join the walk through their town, gather in a forum to tell and hear stories (and ask their MPs, if present, to listen). These "stories of pain and hope" form the basis of the concerns to be presented to Parliament. Some stories show where simple policy changes could ease problems, others bear witness to a need for a major shift in policy direction. Underlying it all is a real concern that New Zealand is becoming a country with a rich elite few and a growing poor underclass - and saying, there's got to be a better way.
So far over 25,000 New Zealanders have taken part in the Hikoi. Small towns (where the pain of social restructuring has been felt most) are very supportive, people in the bigger towns a bit edgy ("protest" had a bad name there) and those in the cities either indifferent or very committed indeed. The current minority Government is paying lip service to welcoming the leaders, while setting its fellow travellers on to digging dirt on the church and attacking its property holdings. The local press love the images and splash them all over the front page; the metropolitan media pretend it isn't there.
On October 1st it all comes together at Parliament in Wellington. Symbolically (and not accidentally I'm sure) it's the day the New Zealand Anglican Prayer Book honours a Catholic nun, Mother Mary Aubert, who founded the Sisters of Compassion to care for the most needy in this country. The sisters of that order, led by the Cardinal, are themselves walking right through the city from their mother house to Parliament. They will join thousands more as the Hikoi of Hope comes from "nga hau e wha" (the four winds) to demonstrate to the decision-makers of the country that their current direction is making more people poorer as a few get richer, and they have to change direction.
The Anglican Church here will never be the same again. Deo gratias.
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