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5 November a chance to celebrate peace

Human Rights Commission
Media release
5 November 2011

5 November a chance to celebrate peace, non-violence and human rights

As gunpowder is ignited and the night sky blossoms this evening, it is worth recalling that a day most New Zealanders know as Guy Fawkes night, was also the day 130 years ago that colonial troops entered the Taranaki settlement of Parihaka.

Led by Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, the small settlement responded by continuing to passively resist attempts to usurp their lands. In the face of extreme provocation the people of Parihaka remained non-violent. Their philosophy of non-violent resistance came decades before the human rights campaigns of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

Commissioner with responsibility for disability issues Paul Gibson said, “It remains a defining moment in our history, demonstrating again, from giving women the vote to the ratification of the Disability Convention, how New Zealand can lead the world in human rights and the path of peace.”

He said it was to be regretted that the anniversary was not more widely known and he saw no little irony in how in their rebellions Guy Fawkes chose violence and the people of Parihaka chose peace. “It’s a day when New Zealanders can be proud of an important day for human rights.”

Mr Gibson, who was raised in Taranaki, told how guide dogs have always been welcome on Taranaki marae, in recognition of the story from Parihaka about how dogs urinated on cannon fuses so the troops could not fire on the settlement.

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