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Newsletters > Diversity Action Programme > Te Korowai Whakapono: Religious Diversity Network > 2009 > June

Te Korowai Whakapono: Religious Diversity Network

ISSN 1178-0924 June, 2009

News & Issues

The Victoria University Religious Studies Programme will host the annual religious diversity forum on Monday August 24 from 1- 3pm as part of the wider New Zealand 2009 Diversity Forum in Wellington.

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The religious diversity forum continues the focus on different aspects of the Statement on Religious Diversity, and the topic for this year is religious diversity in the workplace. Professor Paul Morris of Victoria University will provide an overview of the issues, including reasonable accommodation of religious practices such as clothing, prayer times and spaces, recognition of sacred days, and issues of health and safety, inclusion and tolerance. Representatives of employers and unions and faith communities will provide further perspectives. The objective will be to set in motion the development of guidelines about religious diversity in the workplace for employers and employees.

The forum will also feature the launch of Guidelines on Religion in Schools, produced by the Human Rights Commission, and the revised Statement on Religious Diversity. Both publications are the outcome of previous religious diversity forums.

Also as part of the Forum, the Wellington Interfaith Council will be hosting a forum on Sunday afternoon on Interfaith In Action.

The New Zealand Diversity Forum brings together organisations and individuals with a commitment to practical action to support cultural diversity and foster harmonious race relations in New Zealand. The forum programme offers a wide range of specialist and public forums by participants in the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme.

Network for Islamic Studies

Auckland University’s Network for Islamic Studies was upgraded last month to a Research Unit. The Unit’s intent is to pursue academic research alongside the development of a community outreach programme.

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The Islamic Studies Research Unit (ISRU) represents staff and students whose research and teaching intersect with the study of Islam (e.g., History, Philosophy, Theology, etc). The aims of NISA are:

  • To develop a resource base for students, academics and professionals interested in doing research on, or learning more about the cultures and politics of Muslim societies
  • To promote collaborative scholarship in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and business, and to provide opportunity, incentive and funding to achieve publications, seminars and conferences
  • To promote a better awareness of current research involving Islam
  • To reach out to prospective researchers and students
  • To develop a resource base for teaching and research
  • To publicise upcoming seminars, conferences and publications
  • To take initiatives to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue
  • To serve as an academic and social resource for members of the community who are interested in Muslim societies
  • To provide a forum for members of the local Muslim community to discuss issues of identity and resources for personal, social and academic development.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs partnered with Auckland University’s Islamic Studies Research Unit on May 23 and 24 for the ‘Young Muslims Leadership Development Conference 2009′.

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This conference was part of ongoing work aimed at promoting the positive integration of young Muslim New Zealanders in wider society, and providing a space for training and leadership development.

Over the two conference days youth participated in lectures, workshops and interactive sessions. Activities were based around ideas on the nature and realities of leadership in a multicultural environment, and encouraged participants to take a proactive approach toward their communities. Approximately 20 young Muslims from around the country took part and many indicated that they found the experience extremely valuable.

As with other ethnic youth, it is important that young Muslims are able to see themselves as being 'of New Zealand', especially as a third of the Muslim population in the country is under the age of 18. Given that many of these Muslim youth will occupy leadership roles within their community in the future, it is important that they are equipped with the appropriate skills and knowledge. This conference aimed to assist the development of some of these skills in participants. Keep an eye on the Office of Ethnic Affairs website for the full report on the conference.

Faith Café

The Office of Ethnic Affairs and Network for Islamic Studies also held a one hour session on the opportunities and benefits of intercultural and interfaith engagement for young people. The session was held at Esquires Café at the University of Auckland on May 23.

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The keynote speaker was Adam Boon, Director of Youth Focus. The facilitators Robin De Haan and Hyo-Jung Kim (Multi-Faith Club, University of Auckland) used the World Café principles to engage participants in a safe and respectful dialogue. The session was attended by 30 young people from all faiths. The aim of the session was to provide an opportunity for the conference participants to engage in dialogue on the inter-cultural and interfaith benefits and opportunities for young people in New Zealand.

Faith Café was one of the sessions conducted during the Muslim Leadership Development Conference.

Auckland Inter-Faith Council’s AGM on June 10 was attended by 40 individuals representing a wide range of faith communities, as well as faith-based organisations such as World Vision. An Auckland City Council representative also attended.

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The Fickling Convention Centre was kindly provided for use. The election of the executive resulted in a composition of Hindu, Sikh, Anglican, Latter Day Saints, Unificationist, Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Bahá'í and Muslim members. These members will continue to work to forge strong interfaith bonds amongst the various faith traditions in Auckland.

Discussion centred around possible future interfaith activities, with many and varied ideas being put forward for the executive to consider at its first meeting. Light entertainment of comedy, music and poetry by Jamie Banks also featured during the evening. The Auckland Inter-Faith Council welcomed a number of new members during the evening, and is always happy to receive membership applications at any time during the year. Please contact Suzanne Mahon for enquires.

Telugu Church Interfaith Event

An interfaith dialogue event was held in Auckland as part of the one year anniversary of the Telegu Church on May 9. The topic was ‘Unity In Diversity’ and the programme included reflection, discussion and presentation by members of various faiths.

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These members included Buddhist Jangchub Lhamo; Hindu Kampta Prasad Maharaj; Muslim Gul Zaman; Christian Rev Dr Vipul Karat; and a Jewish representative. Up to 40 people attended the event.

The Telugu Church started as an ethnic Telugu Church on May 11 2008. Initially the church was called St. Barnabas Telugu Church because it was located at St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Mt. Eden. The focus of the Telugu Church is to look after Telugu Christians in New Zealand, spiritually, emotionally and socially (Telugu people come from India). Much of its work focuses on welfare activities, especially helping abused women in families and providing counselling, as well as making appropriate referrals. The work increasingly involves helping new immigrants from India, in order to aid their transition into New Zealand society. The Church is also interested in maintaining a good rapport with other faiths and defining themselves as being a "wholistic" ministry.

The Christchurch Interfaith Council held the first ever Rafaa Antoun Memorial lecture. Rev. Dr Jonathan Inkpin delivered a lecture: Receiving the Gift -Sharing in Diversity,on June 8 at the Refugee and Migrant Centre.

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Dr Inkpin is the General Secretary of the NSW Ecumenical Council and the Secretary of the Faith and Unity Commission of the National Council of Churches in Australia. Originally from the north-east of England, he has worked in many different capacities, including theological education, community development and environmental issues.

Rafaa Antoun, who died at the end of December 2008, was well known, loved and respected in the local community. She was an active volunteer worker on ethnic, interfaith and women's issues. The Christchurch Interfaith Council has decided to hold an annual lecture in her memory to focus on the issues that were dear to her heart.

New Testament for Tokelau

The first Christian scriptures to be published in the Tokelau language were launched at a church service in Porirua near Wellington on May 23.

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It has taken 13 years to for the New Testament to be translated into the Tokelau language, and it is one of the few written documents in the language.

The funding and expertise for this translation came from the Tokelau community and the Bible Society. At the launch Foua Toloa, the head of the Tokelau government council, announced that the council will be allocating $15,000 towards the completion of the translation of the Old Testament in the Tokelau language. Mr Toloa said this further translation was important in helping to keep the Tokelau language alive.

The translation of the Old Testament into Tokelau is expected to take about four years.

Spiritual Stuff for Kiwi Kids – a multifaith anthology is being compiled by Jo and Peter Donovan of Nelson: a former teacher/nurse and university religious studies lecturer.

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Members of all faiths and the general public are invited to offer favourite precepts and practices; karakia and blessings; customs and rituals; advice and skills; and stories and teachings.

Intended topics will include thanking, sharing, celebrating, helping, coping, growing.

The aim is to publish a basic anthology/workbook for parents, relatives, friends, teachers and children, and to share ways and means of building good lives in today's world. The Donovans will be assisted by a small group of religious and secular advisors (mostly young).

For more details email them.

Future Events

Islam Awareness Week

Islam Awareness Week (IAW) this year will be from August 10-17, with the theme of “finding a balance in life”.

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IAW will once again involve the presentation of the annual Harmony Awards. The Harmony Awards recognise efforts to improve understanding and harmony between Muslims and non-Muslims, and thereby encourage this outcome. The award categories will correspond to the target audiences and there will be local and national awards for non-Muslims. This will be followed by a lunch.

Islam Awareness Week is the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ (FIANZ) contribution to the NZ Diversity Action Programme. Events are organised by FIANZ to increase New Zealanders' awareness of Islamic beliefs, values and practices, and to positively tackle misinformation about Muslims. Please contact Dr Mustafa Farouk for further details or if you would like to organise an event.


Matariki, New Zealand’s indigenous new year celebration, is happening this month, and is expected to be bigger than ever.

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Matariki is the star cluster that heralds the start of the Aotearoa Pacific New Year. Information is available on the Matariki Festival website (with details coming soon). The official dates for this year are from June 24 to July 24, but there are quite a lot of events taking place earlier in the month. Many organisations are promoting Matariki, including museums, libraries, city councils, and the Māori Language Commission. Visit the Human Rights Commission's website for details on the Matariki celebrations planned by Diversity Action Programme participants.

If your organisation has plans to celebrate Matariki, email us at nzdiversity@hrc.co.nz, and we will add it to your list of projects and promote it in our publicity.

Hindu Elders Foundation, a division of the Hindu Council of New Zealand Inc., is organising the 1st New Zealand Hindu Elders Conference on October 3. The theme of the conference is “Old is Gold” and the conference will be held at the Hindu Heritage Centre, Mangere, Auckland.

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This conference provides a platform for organisations working with elders and senior citizens to showcase their contribution to New Zealand society through their social and community work. It is also an opportunity for organisations to share their knowledge and experience, and to learn from others. The conference is open to all.

After the inaugural session there will be a panel discussion on Government Agencies' assistance to Hindu Elders. In the afternoon there will be three workshops:

  • Legacy of Inheritance: A social awareness
  • Health and Wellbeing of Elders
  • Constructive engagement for society's benefit through experience and energy

Please let us know if you are interested in:

  • being on the organising committee
  • speaking at the conference
  • helping with other conference/workshop arrangements.

If you have a passion for working with elders, and would like to be part of this conference please contact Guna Magesan.

Professor R. Glynn Owens (University of Auckland) will give a public lecture entitled “Deconstructing Slippery Slope Arguments”.

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It will include a critical examination of the reasoning used when making decisions about moral issues such as voluntary euthanasia. The lecture will be held on June 21 at 2.30pm, at the Rationalist House in Auckland (64 Symonds Street, Grafton).

Professor Owens has research interests in health psychology, including death and dying, forensic psychology, sports psychology and eating disorders. He has written or co-authored several books including: Psychology of Mens Health; Health Challenges of some Urban Cook Island Women in New Zealand; Violence: A Guide for the Caring Professions; Watch Your Child's Weight; Research Methods for the Health Sciences; and Living While Dying, Psychological Aspects of Terminal Care.

Refreshments and discussion will follow the talk. All are welcome. Contact the NZARH office (09) 373-5131 for more information.

The Council of Christians and Muslims will meet at the Ponsonby Mosque on June 22.

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Speakers will include Mohamed Hassan and Carolyn Johnston who will discuss the topic 'Forgiveness: what can we learn from the story of Joseph'. The Ponsonby Mosque is located at 17 Vermont Street, Ponsonby.

Mohamed Hassan is a NZ citizen, originally from Sri Lanka where he worked for the Supreme Court, Senate and House of Representatives as a Hansard Reporter for over 35 years. He reported on economics at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for several years. He has also worked as a freelance journalist. Currently he is a senior writer for the NZ Dawa eNewsletter, a relief prayer leader at the Auckland University Prayer Room, and a prayer leader of the Mt Albert Islamic Centre.

Carolyn Johnston has recently returned from Scotland where she completed her PhD on George McDonald, a theologian in the 19th century. She and her husband Mark are resettling into New Zealand life and discovering the many changes to the multicultural and interfaith communities making up the country.

Did You Know?

Parliament of World Religions

The Parliament of World Religions will be held in Melbourne, Australia, from December 3 – 9. It aims to foster interreligious, civil and cross-cultural dialogue on important local and national issues, and to promote and encourage social cohesion within societies.

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The Parliament is the world's largest interreligious gathering and convenes every five years in a major international city. The last Parliament was held in Barcelona, Spain, in 2004; this is the first time that the Parliament has been hosted in this part of the world.

The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions invites all people of faith, spirit and goodwill to learn about the world's diverse religious and spiritual traditions. Participants can take part in over 500 events, including keynote addresses, seminars, conferences, dialogues, performances, concerts and exhibitions. The 2009 Parliament is expected to bring together more than 8,000 people from over 80 countries, including renowned spiritual, religious and political leaders.

The theme of the 2009 Parliament Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the Earth underscores how religious and spiritual communities, and all people can act on environmental concerns and become aware of global interconnectedness. Key topics of global concern will be addressed from religious and spiritual perspectives. These include:

  • Healing the Earth with Care and Concern
  • Reconciling with Indigenous Peoples
  • Overcoming Poverty in a Patriarchal World
  • Securing Food and Water for all People
  • Building Peace in the Pursuit of Justice
  • Creating Social Cohesion in Village and City
  • Sharing Wisdom in the Search for Inner Peace

Visit their website for more information.