The profound act of baking bread

The profound act of baking bread

On the 5th of November 1881, the peaceful Māori community of Parihaka was invaded and plundered by Government troops.  This year, the Parish of Porirua will commemorate this insidious moment in our history – by baking bread and giving it away to their neighbours.

Rev Jenny Dawson explains: “The idea of giving bread to neighbours came from what happened when the troops arrived at the village: as the troops approached, the children greeted them by singing and dancing and giving them bread.”  Despite this act of generosity and hospitality, what followed was a day of plunder, enslavement and atrocious acts of brutality.

“I was formerly an English and History teacher, and way back I read a book called ‘Te Riri Pākehā – the White Man’s Anger’ by Tony Simpson that opened my eyes,” Jenny says.  “I love this idea because I have always wanted  to find some simple way to remember Parihaka.  It is part of our tragic past that we need to face if we Pākehā are to be good Treaty partners and if all of us in New Zealand are going to move forward together.”

The act of baking bread for Parihaka Day taps into more than just the historical event.  Before 1881, Parihaka had become a sanctuary for Māori of many different iwi, who sought refuge from the wars.  They had developed a culture of open dialogue, deep relationship and community-led self-sufficiency.  Such a culture of unity would be the envy of any Kiwi community today.  In 2012, Ruakere Hond, a contemporary speaker at Parihaka, said “the war hasn’t finished. People aren’t falling from muskets. They are falling from youth suicide, alcohol, drug abuse, chronic poverty, intergenerational poverty. There is still a long way to go.”

In light of the full story of Parihaka, the simple act of baking bread and giving it to our neighbours presents a rich, powerful and beautiful opportunity to engage with them in the love of God.  When we do that, we can only imagine the ways in which God will bring about transformation in our communities.

You can access the teaching resource on the Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand website here.  There is also an excellent resource for parishes on their website, accessible here.

Are you doing anything to commemorate Parihaka Day?  Please send us your stories and your photos!  Email them to

Photo: Te Ara – The Encyclopeadia of New Zealand