New Zealand (Aotearoa)

Doctrine Creation stories of the new Zealand Maori tell of two primal parents, Papa the Earth Mother and Rangi the Sky Father, who were locked in an embrace allowing no light between their bodies where their offspring lived in cramped discomfort. Separation of the pair was accomplished by Tane who became creator of humankind and associated with vegetation and forest life. In everydaylife the Maori also honoured other deities, including Tangaroa (sea, sealife), Tu (war), Rongo (peace, cultivated crops), Tawhiri (wind, storms), and strict rules were followed in order to keep the people safe from spiritual influences. Selected members of the chiefly class and experts in the major arts received higher instruction in spiritual matters which may have included knowledge of a supreme deity, Io, who dwelt in the twelfth heaven. Orders of lesser nature spirits were also known.

History The Maori settled Aotearoa between 750 and 1000 from central Polynesia. Settlement by Europeans from the early 1800s began with Christian missionaries and within a few decads Christianity was widespread. Many religious movements arose to reconcile the old and new traditions, most combining elements of both. The healing of physical diseases brought by the settlers formed a significant part of many movements.
Those which have lasted longest and retained the largest membership are Ringatu and Ratana, now both regarded as Maori Christian churches. Ringatu was founded by the prophet Te Kooti Rikirangi Te Turuki (c.1830-1893) after divine revelations. From his reading of the Bible Te Kooti saw himself as a Hebrew style prophet and, like Moses, sought to lead his people to liberation under the direction of Jehovah. Ratana, named for its founder, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana (1873-1939), combined spiritual and political elements in order to unite the people under God. The main difference between this and other churches was the replacement of the Christian Trinity with a quinary of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Faithful Angels, and the Mouthpiece of God, Ratana himself.
Other world religions became established during the 1900s, mainly through immigration.

Symbols Ringatu means "upraised hand", this symbol being used by the Church today. Its origin was a gesture of protection from bullets in warfare, but this was altered by Te Kooti to signify homage to God and the blessings of the prophets. The amin symbol of the Ratana church is a five-coloured, five-pointed star representing the elements of (divinity as above), resting on an upturned crescent moon with the words "T.W. Ratana". In post-contact Maori religious movements more generally, symbols which recur are stars, comets, moon, serpent/lizard, angels, Bible, trumpet, and flags of various colours and design. The use of biblical imagery was frequent.

Adherents New Zealand 1991 census figures show the following percentages for religious belief: Christian 69% (2,234,493), Maori churches 1.7% (56,367) with Ratana being by far the largest with 47,592. Other world religions number, in order, between 18,000 and 1000 adherents - Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Baha'i Faith, Sikhism. Various Pacific Island churches for other Polyneisan peoples living in New Zealand claim 6600 combined.

Main Centre
 The Ratana Church is centred at Ratana, a village in Taranakiprovince, North Island, New Zealand.