This article begins by examining the nature of being human and the nature of suffering within the writings of Belgian Catholic theologian, Edward Schillebeeckx. Particular focus is given to Schillebeeckx’s understanding of the humanum—the essence of the human being which challenges another human being to respond with respect. Schillebeeckx’s understandings of the humanum are then set alongside an event in nineteenth century Aotearoa New Zealand in which Maori were forcibly removed by governmental authorities from their land at Parihaka. I propose that Schillebeeckx’s theological understandings of the humanum are valuable in engaging with and interpreting this historical event. Ultimately, I argue that Schillebeeckx’s interpretations of suffering and of being human offer fruitful insights for public theology.