26 Jan 2015

Rangatahi key to future - Ratana

8:48 pm on 26 January 2015

By Eru Rerekura, Te Manu Korihi - Eru.Rerekura@radionz.co.nz

The Rātana Church is banking on the next generation of Te Reo speakers to bring people back to the movement and encourage new members to join.

Ratana Church

Ratana Church Photo: RNZ

This year marks 90 years since the prophet, Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, received a message from God to unite the Māori people.

During the past 30 years, the number of people visiting Rātana Pā has been dropping.

Senior church member Andre Meihana blamed the "baby boomers" generation for not doing its bit to keep the numbers afloat.

"And it's my generation who had the responsibility from our parents and our grandparents to hand this down.

"It got to my generation and it got a weenie bit lost and you must understand that we grew up in the times of the 60s and 70s, that time period was, I believe...was the ultimate of colonisation from that we started losing followers," he said.

Georgia Peke, in her mid 20s, said even her mother spoke about a time when Rātana Pā used to be overloaded with morehu making their annual journey there.

"When my mum was younger this would've been about 30 years ago she said there used to be cars parked about 20 kilometres down the road, before you even come into the streets (of Rātana Pā)

"And now cars don't even park there, so yeah, it's definitely changed.

"I don't think I'd be able to bring any people back (but) I would encourage them just to come out for the 25th just 'cos there is festivities out here," she said.

But, Stacey Tau, who had been living in Australia for the past 20 years, said it was great to come back and see that Rātana Pā still attracted politicians who came to appeal to potential voters.

"The mōrehu people still have a say in politics and politicians still have a keen interest in hearing our opinions and even capturing our votes.

"It is quite mesmerising to know that mōrehu people, the people of Rātana Pā have that sort of influence in politics and it's only a small place that we attract some of the biggest names and I guess that is what is quite humbling about this small pa," he said.

Soraya Peke-Mason said even though there were not the huge crowds she used to see as a child some 30 years ago, church membership was starting to grow again.

"All year through we have a lot of iriiri, or baptisms, and you can see that by the registrations of christenings that come through during the course of the year," she said.

The annual Ratana celebrations.

The annual Ratana celebrations. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Meihana believed it would be the next generation who could speak Te Reo that would carry on from his generation and grow the Rātana church.

"The next generation the tamariki and the rangatahi are so fluent in the (Māori) language and understanding.

"It was important that all the information that came here was written in Māori for that generation," he said.

Mr Meihana said he was optimistic that the rangatahi would do a better job at carrying on T.W Rātana's legacy.

He also acknowledged both the movement and the Kīngitanga working together to achieve the prophet's aspiration for tangata whenua:

"More over the last 10 years it's about uniting and mainly about the (Māori) King movement and the prophet movement - the poropititanga and the Kīngitanga coming together uniting and leading our Māori race.

"That's what it's all about and we're looking forward to celebrating a 100 years in three years time," he said.

Mr Meihana said 2018 would be a significant year for the movement to celebrate, as it marked 100 years since the Holy Spirit visited TW Rātana on November 8, 1918.

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