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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 4, 2002

Organizer says selection of Hawai'i was 'God's will'

 •  Hawaiian culture, Christianity still at odds

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

 •  What attendees need to know

Fourth World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People

Oct. 5-9 at the Hilo Civic Auditorium; Oct. 11-17 at the 'Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki

$25-$300 (latter fee includes conference, meals, lu'au; group rates available)

Information: wcgiphawaii.org, phone John Carpenter at 921-0364 or Helene Waihe'e at 261-0559

Where services are in Hawaiian

About 50 churches of the 126 in the United Church of Christ denomination here are Hawaiian-language churches, says the Rev. David Kauweloa Kaupu, a member of the Council of Hawaiian Congregational Churches. He estimates that's about matched by another 40 to 50 Hawaiian-language churches outside the denomination.

St. Andrew's Cathedral offers an Episcopal Mass said in Hawaiian every Sunday at 8 a.m.

For Roman Catholics, some songs and Scripture readings are done in Hawaiian and English at all three Masses the first Sunday of the month at St. Rita Church in Nanakuli.

About 20,000 of the estimated 200,000 people of Hawaiian ancestry attend some kind of Christian church service regularly.

Kalani Po'omaihealani didn't have to stretch his powers of persuasion to bring the World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People to Hawai'i.

Po'omaihealani was the Hawaiian delegate at the last World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People in 2000 in Australia, but he was late for a planning meeting to discuss the location of the 2002 conference.

By the time he arrived, he recalls with a laugh, Hawai'i had already been voted in, besting the second-place choice, Manila.

It was "God's will," he said, that he prepares to extend the hand of aloha to Lakota Sioux from South Dakota, Toltecs from Mexico, Inuits from Alaska and Saami (Lap) peoples from Norway, said the new chairman of the Honolulu conference.

Po'omaihealani also serves as director of Pacific Island Praise, the interdenominational group hosting the conference.

Each year since its inception in New Zealand in 1996, the conference has grown. The last one drew not only indigenous people but Christians of Korean, Taiwanese, Brazilian and Filipino ancestry, as well as Messianic Jews, he said.

The first such conference focused on the need for forgiveness and reconciliation between "the colonizing powers and na keiki o ka 'aina," (the indigenous people of the respective lands). Over time, however, according to information posted by organizers on the official Web site for this year's gathering, the tone for subsequent gatherings has changed.

"Now that healing has begun, it is time to turn our eyes upward and begin to fulfill the great commission to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation," the organizers said. Besides encouraging diversity of worship, there's also a move to "continue true reconciliation through constructive exploration of (indigenous people's) history and the issues related to the injustices perpetrated against them, and, through education, effect change."

Po'omaihealani expects to take the message beyond the walls of the 'Ilikai Hotel, where the Honolulu leg of the gathering will be held. He is arranging to have teams of Maori dance at area schools and senior centers, as well as hold a cultural praise session at Waimanalo Beach Park.

Within the 'Ilikai walls, frequencies will be tuned to the message as well, with Christian author/speaker Tony Campolo, Shelly Mecum, author of "God's Photo Album," and Hokule'a captain/navigator Nainoa Thompson on the lineup.

Besides the opening ceremony and lu'au, other public events will be held on O'ahu: a prayer march down Kalakaua Avenue to Kapi'olani Park, an arts and crafts and prayer fair at Kapi'olani Bandstand with items from participating countries, cultural workshops and praise sessions, Po'omaihealani said.

There will also be the more academic topics, such as "Israel and indigenous peoples," led by Arni Klein of Tel Aviv, as well as Richard Twiss' workshop on "developing indigenous theologies."

The basic premise behind the gathering is to teach indigenous people they are not subservient to Westerners, who dominate the culture and religion, Po'omaihealani said; they can take the good of the tradition and move forward.

One way to do that is to encourage local culture. The conference intends to do that by holding workshops on Hawaiian feather work as well as lei and lauhala making, in the process showing "how to use these things to reach people about God," he said.