Reverend Muamua Strickson-Pua, chaplain of the Tagata Pasifika Resource Centre, recalls his involvement in protesting against the 1981 Springbok rugby tour.
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Contributed by Muamua Strickson-Pua
A dark cold Sunday 19th July 1981 at Auckland International Airport; there I stood with total strangers in disbelief that a South African rugby team dared to bring apartheid here to Aotearoa New Zealand. As a New Zealand-born Samoan I was aware that I had to stand up and speak out. As I looked around me there was a sense of sadness, a slow rising anger and a unity of purpose for justice.
I raced back to our Newton Pacific Islanders Presbyterian Church off Karangahape Road to Bible class. This was the faith community that I belonged to with Cook Islanders, Niueans, Tokelauans, Samoans and New Zealand-born people. Our 20-something age group took seriously the Biblical theology of social justice and social change. Reading and hearing about Bishop Tutu’s faith praxis inspired us to practice our faith here in New Zealand. Protest quickly became our action of faith. Our humble group of Pacific church activists worked relentlessly throughout this ill-fated tour.
What was challenging and inspiring was the diversity within the protest movement. We were the Pasifikan branch, whilst Māori, Pākehā, gang members, university students, middle-class, gay and lesbian communities, unions, churches, beneficiaries and many more arose to express their displeasure. Over the 56 days we would learn from each the meaning of a nation sharing its labour pains of history and identity.
As Pasifikans we began to make our own reconnections with New Zealand's colonial past in the Pacific. Now we, the present Pasifikan tupulaga generation, were responding to history once again for Nelson Mandela and South Africa, yet now a growing awareness challenged us about tangata whenua and the Treaty of Waitangi. We were becoming aware that we had a role to play, our faith challenged us to be just and our culture had practices to contribute to New Zealand truly becoming Aotearoa society, a multicultural nation.
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New Zealand Herald
Reference: 23–24 Sept 2000, p. A5
Photograph by Martin Sykes
Permission of the New Zealand Herald must be obtained before any re-use of this image.