“Come Unto Me…”

Te Ururoa Flavell

Suicide. The mere mention of the word is enough to stir our emotions, our memories and even move some of us to anger. It is no surprise then that the MP for Te Waiariki, Te Ururoa Flavell sparked such controversy with his recent column on suicide. You can read it here, but basically what the esteemed member of parliament said was that we shouldn’t celebrate the lives of those who commit suicide, instead we should bury them at the entrance of the cemetery (where people would walk over them) so their deaths will be condemned by the people.

As Falvell says, this is a hardline stance, but he is proposing it because he has seen firsthand the trauma and grief caused by suicide, and in his words “What else can we do?”

Like most people I have been touched by suicide, while my whanau and I have been lucky enough to not have a suicide in the immediate family, the effects of suicide are such that even when it occurs in the extended family or even a loose circle of acquaintances, everyone feels it s horrible presence no matter how distant. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Flavell’s article caused such a reaction.

Like everything, I think it is important to look to our faith when dealing with issues, especially issues like suicide that seem to have no reason, but hurt so much. One piece of scripture that comes to mind whenever I think of suicide is from Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This passage sums up to me what I believe would be God’s response to any person who is convinced that their burden is so heavy, and they are so weary that the only way to be free from it is to end their lives. As I type these words I am very aware of the dangers of glorifying suicide, and please know that that is certainly not my intention. These words are not a way of legitimising suicide but rather a response to it. The real power in these words from Matthew’s gospel are in the fact that they are a calling to all of us to place our burdens on Jesus and free ourselves from the weight and tiredness that comes with those burdens. Through doing so, and responding to those words from Matthew, we free ourselves from those dark corners of our lives where some of us are sometimes moved to consider, and in the worse cases commit suicide. I believe our God is a god of love and while God would much rather see us live our lives and live them fully in him I cannot for a second fathom that God wouldn’t be waiting to receive any victim of suicide with open arms and offer them the paradise they were so tragically denied during their lives, that paradise that we are all entitled to.

From this perspective I must disagree with Flavell. I do not think that it is right for us, or anyone else to deny a grieving family a Tangi (funeral) or to bury a victim of suicide outside of the urupa (cemetery) by themselves. They were so alone in their lives, why would we condemn them to remain alone (even if only their mortal remains) in death? Even more than that, I am moved by my faith to respond to suicide in a way that is inspired by, and lives out the love of God as revealed to us in his son Jesus Christ.

About Christopher Huriwai
I am a twenty-something, husband, student, minister, Anglican, Maori, son, brother, uncle.

5 Responses to “Come Unto Me…”

  1. paparoa says:

    Tena koe Chris – he mihi kau ana mo o kupu whakaaronui, mahaki hoki e hoa. Mauri ora! Jeffrey.

  2. Tāne says:

    Tēnā koe Chris,

    Te whai whakaaro hoki o āu kupu. He take toimaha tēnei, heoti anō, e tika ana kia wānangatia tēnei e tēnā e tēnā, kia māramatia ai e te marea he aha ngā tohu, me pēwhea hoki tātou e āwhina ai i ngā whānau e pāngia ana e te whakamomori o ō rātou whanaunga aroha.

    • Tena ano koe e Tane,

      Kei te tika to whakaaro, te taumaha hoki o tenei kaupapa. Ki a au nei, ko te wananga, ko te korero e pa ana ki tenei kaupapa tetahi o nga rongoa mo tenei mea. Kia mataara hoki tatou ki nga tohutohu o te raruraru i roto i o tatou tamariki, a, me korero ki a ratou e pa ana ki era raruraru kia tino mohio ai ratou kei konei tatou hei pa tuwatawata mo ratou.

      Ehara au i te tangata tino mohio ki te kaupapa nei, engari kei te mohio au, ma te aroha, ka taea.


  3. Tom Hudson says:

    Dear Brother Christopher,

    I agree with you. I am no longer surprised at the cruel, insensitive, and stupid things that politicians say. As you probably know, my country is on the brink of financial disaster because of the stubbornness of politicians. I wish we could fire them all!

    Like you, I have never experienced the suicide of a friend or family member. I am sure that I would be devastated. I would wonder if there were anything I could have done to help him or her. I would worry for their closest loved ones, who will probably blame themselves in some way. I would never deny the deceased a Christian funeral or burial. It is not my place to judge, but rather to try to heal and help as best I can.

    In another twist on this topic, as I age, I wonder what I might do if I learned that I had an incurable disease that promised a long period of suffering for myself and those around me. If it were possible to decide when to die with dignity, rather than wasting away and being a burden on others, would I consider doing so? With Saint Paul, I might say, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” {Phil 1:21}

    Please hold our Chapter meeting in Toronto in your prayers this week. You are in my prayers every day.

    Brother Tom+ OPA

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