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Kereru flies with dove of peace

By Joanna Davis

Kere the Kereru is flying the length of the country bringing a message of peace. Kere – a native wood pigeon – is helping to communicate to children the principles of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DoV), a World Council of Churches initiative for the first decade of the new millennium.

Rev Robyn Cave is coordinating the New Zealand response to the global initiative. On a 20-month appointment with the specific aim of engaging children with overcoming violence, she works from the CCANZ offices in Christchurch.

Robyn has been an Anglican ordained priest for 18 years. She says her most relevant past experience is her time as school chaplain at an Anglican girls’ school. Even so, it wasn’t as much her rapport with children that landed her this assignment as it was as her enthusiasm for living on the edge.

“For me, I just think it’s so important that we find ways of working together. What better way than in working to overcome violence?”

Robyn was appointed in February and is now gaining momentum with several projects, one of which is Kere the Kereru.

Kere comes in a kit which also includes a CD or tape. “Twelve kereru puppets are travelling the country to member churches and it’s tied in with a website. The tape talks to children about aspects of the DoV using stories to wrap around the messages.”

The messages include being peaceful, being involved in overcoming violence, being non-judgmental and accepting difference and diversity.

Another fun-based project underway is a board game called Te Hikoi Whakamiharo, or The Incredible Journey. Robyn describes the game, which is suited for children from age eight, as “a bit like Monopoly, but uniquely Aotearoa New Zealand. It uses native birds and creatures as counters. They might land on a hui space and have to convene a meeting.” The aim of the game is to get children to learn strategies of cooperation and non-violence.

Since Dame Sylvia Cartwright presented the first game in May this year, one thousand have been distributed to primary schools throughout the country. The Christchurch ecumenical group which developed the game want to give one to every primary school and are half-way to that goal. Robyn says they hope to fund the rest through sales of the game to families and churches. The games are available through the CCANZ office at a cost of $25.00 each.

DoV is not just for school-aged children. The Student Christian Movement Aotearoa is planning a “live-in theological experience” for young people in December, with the focus on DoV.

“They’ll be looking at issues of violence in their lives and their response to it, using playback theatre and lots of fun stuff.” The retreat is open to school-leavers and tertiary students.

Robyn explains the importance of churches’ involvement in the DoV and in the pursuit of non-violence generally: “We have justified violence through some of our theology and we need to revisit it. We do actually have a rich history of restorative justice but we have to deal with our passivity and tolerance for violence. This really is a growth edge for the churches.”