Tongan Language Week to support NZ community's Covid response

New Zealand's Minister for Pacific Peoples says the theme of this year's Tongan Language Week will be used to underpin the community response and recovery to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The theme for the 2020 Uike Lea Faka-Tonga is "Fakakoloa 'o Aotearoa aki 'a e Lotu Mo'oni", which in English means "Enriching Aotearoa New Zealand through prayer and faith".

Aupito William Sio said in his experience the Tongan community throughout Aotearoa were deeply spiritual people, and their theme reflected their strong faith-based belief system like many in the Pacific.

"[The theme] underscores the practicality that faith and works must go hand in hand."

"We have seen this with the Lotofale'ia Parish of the Tongan Synod of the New Zealand Methodist Church, which has been at the forefront of using their lands in Māngere to build houses in partnership with Housing NZ, which has highlighted a church leading by example to address the immediate practical housing needs of its community."

Aupito said one of the best Covid-19 responses he had seen was when the main Tongan churches held off holding mass meetings and provided other support to their membership to reduce the risks of community transmission.

"This has been consistent with the safety approaches made by the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with other mainstream churches where online services and home-based family meetings were held instead of mass gatherings."

The minister celebrated the fact that it was the 10th year Tongan Language Week was being marked in New Zealand.

"Over the past 10 years, Tongan community groups and organisations have employed a range of initiatives and programmes to support and grow the language and culture of Tonga. Understanding the need to nurture and support their language every day, the Tonga Language Committee launched a Tonga Language Year programme which is now in its fourth year."

Uike Lea Faka-Tonga was officially launched online over the weekend and will run until 12 September.

"I would encourage all New Zealanders to join in the celebration of the Tongan culture and language online, and continue to abide by the safety Covid-19 messages and guidelines," Aupito said.

"New Zealand is very fortunate to be a country with so many different Pacific languages and cultures. We need to fully embrace this diversity and allow it to enrich all of our lives with the diversity of knowledge and experience from across the vast Blue Pacific continent and beyond."