Hohourongo: Reconciliation and Peace Making

The following is a contribution to our Peace Stories blog and to the Pax Christi International movement from our friends in Aotearoa (New Zealand). This is a contextual theological contribution on peace making. Photo: Pedro Szekely via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Led by Kevin McBride, our Pax Christi Aotearoa New Zealand section thinks it is important that we develop a spirituality of peace that is right for our part of the world and that there is much we can learn from Māori as the indigenous people of our country. To be in dialogue with Māori about these things is a way of addressing the harm and disrespect that was generated by colonisation. It is a dialogue that restores healing to all in our country.

At a recent study on Pax Christi and a Spirituality for Peace, Rangi Davis shared this lovely reflection on the Māori concept of Hohourongo. It is a model she uses in her teaching and counselling practice. Rangi explained that to move along the pathway to hohourongo, other important Māori principles are needed, namely, tika, pono, and aroha working alongside tapu, mana, noa and turanga (see explanations below). Rangi’s understandings developed under the guidance of Pa Henare Tate (Rev. Dr. Henare Tate) who was a preeminent scholar and teacher of Māori theology and spirituality.


The imagery is:

picking up the pieces, putting together again, binding the wounds,

healing the wounds, mending the rifts, re-connecting the severed links,

 replacing the lost, empowering, reclaiming wellness,

reclaiming relationships, balancing the scales,

casting off the rubbish, entering the house of Rongo (Peace)

Hohourongo indicates a violation has occurred to Atua, tangata and whenua (God, people and land) and there is need for restoring tapu and mana through reconciliation or settlement. Hohourongo heals and restores wellbeing to people. The restoring of spiritual wellbeing restores psychological wellness and physical health. Violation severs relationships. Hohourongo re-connects and strengthens the severed three-fold relationship with God, people and land.

Violation ignores and tramples upon tapu restrictions and weakens the power of that safety measure. Hohourongo restores to tapu boundaries the power to safeguard the tapu and mana of all things that exist.

Hohourongo and tika, pono and aroha

Violation is the result of failing to act according to tika, pono and aroha.

Tika is needed to re-establish and maintain right relationships to make right responses and for the right exercise of mana by following the process of hohourongo.

Pono in the first place reveals the reality of the act and the effect of violation on the victim and perpetrator and their whānau (family, community). Secondly, it reveals the reality of the damage done. Thirdly it ensures all steps are taken to repair the damage. Fourthly, if there is no truth or integrity, hohourongo is not effected.

Aroha must always be a part of hohourongo because there is always need for compassion, sacrifice, generosity, and even affection during the process of victim, perpetrator and whānau.

Elements for Hohourongo

Admission, sorrow for the violation, resolve to mend and make right, utu or compensation is required of the perpetrator.

Signs/Whakamā, tears, sorrow, maybe relief.

The victim and whānau can determine the format of the hui hohourongo.

Acceptance of confession, sorrow, admission of guilt and utu, the compensation, granting forgiveness if hohourongo is to be achieved.

Signs/ Maybe tears, karakia, hariru and hongi.

Kua houtia te rongo – reconciliation has been achieved.

Kua tau te rangimarie – peace has been established.

I end with this Psalm 119:10:

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light to my path.”

“Ma te tini me te mano kia taea” With all our contributions we can achieve it.

Arohanui, Rangi

The Essence of Peace for Aotearoa

It is very important as we in Pax Christi Aotearoa-New Zealand explore the foundations of our work for peace, along with other sections and associates across the world, that we ground our principles in the vital essence of the land, the taha wairua of its Tangata Whenua, the Maori people. 

And while it is fully appropriate that we do this, it is also very much in the spirit of the founder of the Pax Christi movement, Marthe Dortel-Claudot, who saw it as a means of reconciliation and of mending the divisions that had been caused by years of warfare among European neighbours. In a similar way, we can heal the wounds of colonisation in our own land and become a sign of hope to others in our region and beyond engaged in working for peace for all, everywhere.

In the spirit of justice, love and peace

Kevin McBride 

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