Anglican Church fronts inquiry on faith-based abuse

By Tumamao Harawira

Today marks the start of the second week of the faith-based redress hearings in Auckland, and it was the turn of the Anglican Church.

The Anglican Church in New Zealand had its beginnings in 1814 when the Maori chief Ruatara agreed with the Rev Samuel Marsden to give protection to missionaries in Ōihi Bay. It's a church that has a long past with Māori, and the abuse suffered by people in its care is also historical. But the Anglican Church is beginning to move toward trying to right its wrongs.

Archbishop Phillip Richardson believed it was important for the Church to be here at the inquiry. "We petitioned the Prime Minister, following the release of the first draft of the terms of reference for inclusion. We could not have credibly operated an equivalent process alongside a royal commission. So we were compelled really to ensure that there was an opportunity."

One of the key principles of the General Synod of the Anglican Church in New Zealand is to respond to human needs by loving service. It's a fundamental concept that Archbishop Richardson was keen to uphold and embody.

Reaching out

"We believed right from the beginning that a commission of this nature was essential in the life of our society and that as a church that had had a responsibility for the care of children and other vulnerable people, it would be inconceivable that there wasn't abuse within our context. It is incontestable that such abuse has been committed by people a part of or associated with the Anglican Church. It takes a great deal of courage to relive and recount an experience of abuse."

It was a call that resonated with Māori Archbishop Don Tamihere, "Kia waerea te huarahi ki a rātou kua pāngia e te mahi tūkino, ki te haramai ki mua i tēnei komihana karauna ki te hou mai tō rātou kōrero, ngā mea e taumaha tonu kei runga i a rātou. Kia kōrero kia whakapuaki ki ngā mea kua pāngia ki a rātou." - So the way is cleared for those who have suffered abuse to come forward to this Crown Commission with their stories and the burden on their shoulders, so they can tell of the abuse they have suffered.

Richardson said it was time for the church to reach out to its victims to begin the healing. "Anyone who is watching the live stream who has been subjected to abuse within our church, anyone who has not felt able to come forward, this is an opportunity, independent of our church to do so. Can I just strongly on behalf of the church encourage you to do so."