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'Acting for change’

19 July 2022

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CHURCH TALK: The past, the present and the future

Friday 5 August 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Church Talk, Features

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CHURCH TALK: The past, the present and the future
Tupapa Maraerenga performing Ura Pa’u in the cultural section of Te Maeva Nui celebrations on Wednesday night at the National Auditorium. Photo: MELINA ETCHES/22080411

I do hope that the Constitution of the Cook Islands is protecting the long-term future of the country. That it is not just being used to reward the present occupiers of this land, writes Bishop Paul Donoghue from the Catholic Church.

The Cook Islands Constitution Day which is acknowledged on August 4 is when Cook Islanders celebrate their independence from European colonial rule which happened in 1965. On the 4th of August, 1965 Cook Islands became self-governing in free association with New Zealand.

Constitution Day in 2022, in my opinion should be the final and most anticipated part of ‘Te Maeva Nui’ – a week-long national event highlighting Cook Islands culture, history, and heritage. I certainly look forward to this week. The challenge for most of us is not to lose sight of the Constitution when it has to compete with floats, choirs, dancing and drumming competitions. This year added to these annual events has been polling day when the nation has chosen who will govern the country for the next four years. I suspect this is being talked over more than anything else that has happened this week.

Many of us, myself included, take the likes of the Constitution for granted; yet when we look at some other nations struggling and in some cases turning to violence to achieve a harmonious nation we should be appreciative of the strengths in the Cook Islands allowing us to live with freedom and in peace. For without a fabric of trust and friendship, and without the moral and intellectual education that takes place in families above all, neither political nor economic society could function for long. This fabric is often called civil society.

Over the course of the week of Te Maeva Nui many more distinguished persons than myself will have spoken on the value of the Constitution and there is no need for me to repeat that. Given the focus has been on what has been achieved in the past 57 years up until the present time I would like to write on the aspect of the future, thinking about what we do now and how it will affect the future.

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  Matthew 11:25

Life is complicated. Or is it? That’s a good question. At times things can seem very complicated. Situations we find ourselves in, relationships with family and friends, our future, our past, and so on, can all seem burdensome and complicated at times. But the truth is that it doesn’t have to be. The truth is that God’s answers to the most “complex” questions in life are often simple enough for a child to understand.

In the passage above, Jesus affirms that the Father reveals His answers and wisdom to those who are childlike. Interestingly, He also states that the Father has “hidden these things from the wise and learned”. So this begs the question…is it better to be “wise and learned” or “childlike?”. Obviously, the answer is that it’s better to be childlike.

This may seem confusing at first. It can seem strange to say that it’s not good to be “wise and learned”. But what that means is that it’s not good to be a person who thinks they have it all figured out. It’s not good to be arrogant and a know-it-all. It’s not good to be so filled with pride that we think we have all the answers.

The ideal is to have certain characteristics of a child. In particular, it’s good to be one who is open, curious, and willing to learn. It’s good to look at life in the simplest of ways and to stick to the basics. Sure, it’s good to grow in wisdom and knowledge of the things of God. But true wisdom and knowledge always maintain a certain innocence and simplicity. They maintain a basic goodness and acceptance of right and wrong. Life does not have to be complicated, it needs to become exceptionally simple.

I do hope that the Constitution of the Cook Islands is protecting the long-term future of the country. That it is not just being used to reward the present occupiers of this land.

Personally, I am at a low point with modern day political leaders. What is the legacy of President Trump? What has he contributed to the long-term future of the United States of America? The manipulating of truth? Undermining democracy? Unable to graciously accept defeat? How has Boris Johnstone made the world a better place as Prime Minister? Or President Putin daily bombarding the neighbour of Russia, the Ukraine for whatever gain? The result is that the individual is now more important than the common good, no matter the cost.

At this very moment as I look at Europe and America on the news I note how many countries are burning from bush fires. Great Britain and other European countries are experiencing record temperatures. Closer to home are the recent floods in New South Wales and New Zealand. It is not just one river or a province but the whole State or country is subject to floods, gales and huge swells. All this now is attributed to climate change. A few years ago, so called experts and major political leaders were denying climate change existed.

In this article I would like to introduce a notion that the likes of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle grabbled with thousands of years ago. I am speaking of what is known as Natural Law which Wikipedia defines as a system of law based on a close observation of human nature. According to the natural law theory, all people have inherent rights, conferred not by act of legislation but by “God, nature, or reason”.

It seems to me timely to pay more attention to nature. Let’s start with the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic I and others wrote on the topic that the pandemic provides us with an opportunity to review the directions that businesses have taken the world with the concept of globalisation. E.g. Capping tourism to suit the resources of the country. I was most uncomfortable with the headline in the Cook Island News on July 15th, “Getting back to business,” or on July 25th, “Tourism industry making hay while the sun shines”. Have we made any changes as a result of the Covid pandemic? Profit or possibly greed rules once again.

I end by sharing the two things that give me heart. One is Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, a child, who has spoken on climate change and whose message has been heard by the world. She stated the following in one of her speeches – “I am here to remind you of the promises that you have made to your children and grandchildren. And to tell you that we are not willing to compromise on the very minimum safety levels that still remain.”

And the second is my own church leader Pope Francis who has asked the question of the world – “What world do we want to leave to our children and our young? Our selfishness, our indifference and our irresponsible ways are threatening the future of our children!”

At this time spare a prayer that the Constitution of the Cook Islands will guarantee a sustainable future for our children, “IN THE HOLY NAME OF GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, THE EVERLOVING AND THE EVERLASTING.” (Title to the Preamble in the Constitution of the Cook Islands)

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