24 Mar 2020

Thousands find comfort in live-streamed karakia

5:36 pm on 24 March 2020

As a nationwide lockdown looms, thousands of New Zealanders are finding comfort and connection through live-streamed karakia.

Dr Hirini Kaa, Kaiarahi at The University of Auckland's Faculty of Arts.

Dr Hirini Kaa says maintaining a healthy wairua is going to be more important than ever. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

University of Waikato associate professor Te Kahautu Maxwell has been live streaming karakia from his living room every day.

"It's trying times for our people at the moment, there's a lot of panic, there's a lot of anxiety, no one really knows what's happening. I'm just trying to provide some peace of mind through a spiritual pathway, I suppose," he said.

"People are listening from Belgium, Australia, Hungary, from all over the world. They just need some spiritual care and it's just about administering to those needs via social media and it's amazing how many people are in need.

"Everyone seems to need karakia at this time."

He said it was incredible seeing tikanga Māori adapt amid the threat of Covid-19.

"What prompted me to go live with karakia was my marae in Ōpōtiki. It made the decision to cancel the monthly Ringatū service.

"I was talking with Selwyn Parata, the chairman of Te Matatini and a member of the Anglican Church. He said, why don't we go online and do karakia because karakia is an important part of helping our people heal and keeping our people safe.

"This is another intervention or innovation in terms of using social media to give our people that spiritual guidance."

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Dr Hirini Kaa, a minister in the Anglican Church, said maintaining a healthy wairua was going to be more important than ever.

"Not to judge at all, but I think people have lived very comfortable lives where the importance of karakia has faded into the background. Who needs it when you've got a great new TV to play with.

"But now, in times of need, I think people are going to rediscover the strength of it. For Māori, it's always been there, but it's just bringing it to the front."

"We know as Māori we have the whare tapawhā. The taha wairua is one of the important parts of our being. So maintaining that alongside our tinana our hinengaro our whānau is incredibly important at all times but now more than ever."

The bishop of Te Tai Tokerau, Te Kitohi Wiremu Pikaahu, can no longer share karakia at church services.

But he said self-isolation would not be a barrier to accessing prayer, and messages of comfort.

"Karakia is very important, given there is now a restriction on gathering in public, especially for those who would normally go to places of worship.

"The next opportunity we have to communicate in terms of worship is through technology. This is one way that the faithful can be reached.

"Apparently there was more than a thousand listening the last live. We are going to do this regularly, and within our leadership we are taking turns. Mostly, I will do it in Māori.

The Kiingitanga Facebook page has also been live-streaming karakia.

Te toki a Kiingi Tuheitia, Brad Totorewa, led the karakia online over the weekend.

"On behalf of Kiingi Tuheitia, in an unprecedented decision, he decided he would share aroha and spiritual healing through karakia and agreed, for the first time, to live-stream his faith the Paimarire.

"It's all about grounding our people, the physical side, the spiritual side and the intellectual side, and we did that."

He said more than 35,000 people watched the karakia.

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