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My God

My God: Manuka Henare

Series 3, Episode 5 - Sunday September 7, 2008

Manuka Henare
Director of Mira Szaszy Research Centre, Auckland University

This week on My God, Manuka Henare talks to presenter Chris Nichol about his roots which, on the face of it, come from a contradictory collection of sources: he embraces Maori spirituality and is a lifelong Roman Catholic.

He was raised in an urban environment but also identifies with his family's rural background; he was a social activist who now teaches business studies. However, for Manuka these are no source of conflict, they are simply different parts of his identity which influence his very busy life.

They've also allowed him to bring a spiritual dimension to his role as director of Mira Szaszy Research Centre at Auckland University's business school.  In a world which often seems to demand we align ourselves with one way of thinking and acting, Manuka says it is possible to move away from the either/or paradigm and be many things simultaneously - to be a tribal person and a Catholic, rural and urban.

Manuka was born in Auckland and spent his early years surrounded by other families which, like his, had migrated from the Hokianga to look for work. His extended whanau would later be spread around Auckland as a result of the government's "pepper-pot" policy which saw urban Maori communities divided and scattered.

The Catholic Church played a central role in Manuka's community; it was a place to come together to worship and to socialise. Manuka soon developed his own understanding of God and faith and says since then his faith journey has been "very incremental."  As a young man he became interested in the Catholic Social Doctrine which led involvement the anti-tour movement, unions and the Peace movement.

After over a decade working within the Catholic Church Manuka pursued a career in academia, studying part-time for his doctorate.  He went on to lecture in Maori Studies at Victoria University before moving back to Auckland to take up his position at the university's business school.

In a wide-ranging interview Manuka also discusses his involvement in the Interfaith movement and the "challenging and enhancing" experience of interacting with people from other faiths. He also explores his understanding of the gospels, and the emergence during the 1970s of a distinctive Maori voice within the Church and the influence of our surroundings on our spirituality.