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Newsletters > Diversity Action Programme > Te Korowai Whakapono: Religious Diversity Network > 2011 > April

Te Korowai Whakapono: Religious Diversity Network

ISSN 1178-0924 April, 2011

News & Issues

The 2011 New Zealand Diversity forum will be held on Sunday and Monday 21-22 August at the Claudelands Convention Centre in Hamilton. Every year at the Diversity Forum there is a forum on an issue addressed in the Statement on Religious Diversity .  This year’s forum will focus on The State and Religion.

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The Statement on Religious Diversity says: “The State seeks to treat all faith communities and those who profess no religion equally before the law. New Zealand has no official or established religion.”

The Human Rights Commission’s Review of Human Rights in 2010 noted that:

“New Zealand has no state religion, and church and state institutions are separate. In legislation and policy, the State respects freedom of thought, conscience and religion. There are few constraints on the freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs. Elements of New Zealand’s Christian heritage are reflected in public life: for example, the Christian festivals of Easter and Christmas are observed as public holidays, and Christian prayers often form a part of public ceremonials.

There is also a degree of statutory recognition of Māori spiritual beliefs, which are inextricably connected to Māori culture.

Any group based on either religious or ethical belief can set up and operate in New Zealand without legal constraints or state interference, while still required to conform to the law like everyone else. Like other groups in society, those based on religious or ethical belief have the right to publicly influence the political process and societal norms in light of their values, within the bounds of the law. Parents are free to direct the religious and moral education of their children, and religious minorities are able to profess and practise their own religion.”

The relationship between the state and religion is still hotly debated, and the increased religious diversity of New Zealand society means that people will continue to discuss such issues as:

  • Should the state observe religious rituals?
  • Should Parliament open with a Christian prayer, other prayer or any prayer at all?
  • Should public events acknowledge the diversity of religion and belief?
  • Should the state recognise and support religious activities?
  • Should the state promote interfaith dialogue?

The forum will contribute to the development of guidelines on the relationship between the state and religion and belief.

Date: Monday 22 August

The Department of Labour has published a summary of submissions’ on the review of immigration policies available to religious workers. The agreement to review existing immigration rules for religious workers came after extensive lobbying from religious communities about the difficulty for religious workers to gain permanent residency in New Zealand.

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Under existing rules religious workers are evaluated against general skills categories to qualify for permanent residence. Religious workers have struggled to fulfill requirements set for skilled employment and employment experience; remuneration; qualifications; English language; and age. Currently about 300 religious workers are granted work permits out of 177,361 temporary work permits issued annually.

Visit the Departments website for the summary.

The Law Commission is undertaking a first principles review of the Burial and Cremation Act 1964. The Act’s primary purpose is to ensure adequate provision is made for the burial of the dead in a manner which is controlled and respectful and which meets public expectations. It also contains the legal provisions governing the certification and registration of deaths.

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As part of the review the Law Commission will consider whether the Act is meeting public expectations and needs with respect to the handling and burial or cremation of the dead with specific reference to: The care and custody of the body after death; the provision of culturally appropriate options for burial or cremation; the responsiveness to individual or group requirements that fall outside the ambit of the current Act (i.e. eco or green burials); the suitability of religious affiliation as the sole criteria for the establishment of burial grounds. The review will include extensive consultation on these and other issues.

The top prize at the Race Unity Speech finals in Auckland on 6 April 2011 went to Lepau Feau representing Sacred Heart College Auckland with Supreet Kaur representing MacLeans College Auckland as runner up.

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Initiated in 2001 by the New Zealand Baha’i Community to commemorate Race Relations Day, the Race Unity Speech Award is supported by the Human Rights Commission, New Zealand Police, and the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

The Speech Award challenges school students in Years 11, 12, and 13 to consider various aspects of racism and to suggest what can be done about it. For 2011, the speech topic was Diversity in the human family. Contestants from throughout the country were invited to prepare a 7-8 minute speech on the topic.

Both Lepau’s and Supreet’s speech are available on the Human Rights Commission website.

Contact Bev Watson if you would like to learn more about the speech contest.

Despite a small increase in complaints of discrimination towards Muslims, a researcher at Victoria University says Muslims in this country are doing comparatively well in other measures.

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The research project, conducted by final year PhD student Jaimee Stuart from Victoria's Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research, compared the experience of Muslim young people in New Zealand and the UK.

The study examined well-being, psychological symptoms, behavioural problems, discrimination and immigration stress in about 300 Muslim youth (aged 16-27 years) in both countries.

Ms Stuart says that the findings revealed that Muslim youth in this country demonstrate more positive outcomes on almost all indicators.

"Importantly, Muslims in New Zealand experience lower levels of discrimination and immigration stress, even though they have stronger religious identities and practice their religion more than those in the UK."

The study also found that perceptions of living in an inclusive, multicultural society were higher for Muslims in New Zealand and that this was related to better outcomes.

"This may be an important indicator that social cohesion has direct and positive impacts on the adjustment of immigrants in New Zealand," says Ms Stuart.

Press Release by Victoria University of Wellington

Vaisakhi celebrated in Manukau

The NZ Punjabi Cultural Association Papatoetoe celebrated Vaisakhi (the harvesting festival of Northern India) on 2 April at Telstra Stadium in Auckland.

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Over 800 people attended the event which included bhangra, giddha, folk songs and drama performances. Vaisakhi is a very important day for Sikhs and one of the most colourful events in the Sikh calendar.

The major feature of the event was the participation of local Maori including Eru Thompson Kaumatua from Manurewa marae representing Auckland Council.

Future Events

Samoan Language Week

Faith communities are encouraged to celebrate Samoan Language Week O le Vaiaso Gagana Samoa which will take place 1 – 7 June.

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Plan your activity now in your church, temple or mosque etc. You are invited to register your activity by emailing nzdiversity@hrc.co.nz so that it can be published on the website and promoted as part of the week’s activities.

The 2011 theme is SAMOA OLA – SAMOA ACTIVE.

Samoan Language week partners for 2011 are FAGASA, the Human Rights Commission, MPIA, PEC Trust and the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. Other partners will be added once they confirm their involvement.

There are over 130,000 Samoan New Zealanders. The Samoan language is the third most commonly spoken language in New Zealand after English and Māori.

The Christchurch Interfaith Council is back into its activities and events. On Tuesday 26 April 7-9pm there will be a presentation from Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Brahma Kumari’s and Unificationists on the topic Understanding the Eternal: Is it possible.  The event will be at 17 Kirkwood Ave.

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For information call Bertha Hurley or Dianne Downward 033489579, 033550959.

NZ Hindu Youth Conference

Hindu Youth New Zealand and the New Zealand Hindu Students Forum are pleased to announce that the 2nd New Zealand Hindu Youth Conference will take place on 7-8 May 2011. The theme of the conference is Dynamic Spirit of Youth.

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The conference aims to harness the dynamic spirit of youth for the purpose of social progress and transformation. It will provide a forum to empower and utilize the energy and vision of young New Zealanders for constructive social purposes, with a focus on Hindu culture and philosophy. It will also discus topics such as pluralism, building leadership in youth, technology, productivity, environmental sustainability, recreation, seva (Service) social issues and how all this is related to the multicultural melting pot that is New Zealand.

Fun activities, games and competitions have also been planned for the two day event. There will be interactive sessions with presenters from different walks of life who have made a mark for themselves in the society; an art exhibition and a quiz night.  Speakers include:

  • Dr Divya Dhar, young New Zealander of the year 2010,
  • Ms Claire Szabo, NZIM young executive of the year 2010
  • Team One Beep, National leg winner of the Microsoft Imagine Cup, 2010
  • J'aime Laurenson Prime  Minister’s inaugural 2010 Pacific Youth Awards recipient

For government agencies, this is a great opportunity to meet and mingle with motivated students and young adults.

Hindu Youth New Zealand and Hindu Students’ Forum work towards making a positive difference in the lives of youth and students to enable them to achieve their highest potential.

For further information, email  hinduyouth.nz@gmail.com

Find Hindu Youth New Zealand on Facebook.

The Auckland Council of Christians and Jews will be holding a meeting on Tuesday 17 May at 7.30pm at  St Paul’s Church lounge 12 St Vincent Avenue in Remuera. 

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The topic is Gone to Hell in a Handcart?  The speaker is Dr Peter Lineham, Associate Professor ay Massey University, Albany – historian and author in the field of church and society.  All welcome.

Bridgebuilders and Settling In are organising the 2nd workshop on Muslim and Christian Women Living in NZ. The theme is Interfaith Harmony: Further dialogue between Muslim and Christian Women.

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The purpose of the seminar is to raise awareness of each faith and to help create harmony and understanding.

Date    :           21 May
Time   :           1.30 – 4.30pm
Venue :           Wesley Centre, 740 Sandringham Road, Auckland.

Contact Jenny Janif jenny.janif001@msd.govt.nz or Rose Tauetule bridgebuilderstrust@xtra.co.nz for more details

Auckland Interfaith Council series

The Auckland Inter-Faith Council invites you to attend a combined AGM/evening seminar on Wed. 15 June at St Mark’s Church 95 Remuera Road Remuera. Doors open 7:00 pm for a 7:30 pm start.

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The AGM will precede 2 guest speakers, Bishop Ross Bay (Anglican) and Mr Verpal Singh (Sikh) who will address the topic Keeping and Practicing Faith in NZ Today. 

Light supper served. All welcome.

The event is supported by Auckland Council.

Radha Sahar’s artworks received by the Anglican Church will be on show at the Parish Centre, Steyne Avenue, Plimmerton, between 10.00am and 5.00pm, for Holy Week 17-25 April.

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The Parish of Pauatahanui has been given guardianship of some of the works. On Saturday evening 16 April, there will be an opening of the exhibition and an opportunity for people in the community to come together, reflect on the works, give thanks and have a few nibbles. Many of the works are interactive, inviting exploration at viewers' leisure. As well as donated works, this short exhibition will also feature small, multi-faith works and general works for sale by silent tender. Successful bidders will be informed after the exhibition has closed.  

Several major works are still to find homes, and enquiries from any charity, community group, faith group,  any public organisation or business, anywhere in the country are welcome. The works on offer are Prayer Wall, the Peace Prayer Wheel, Scripture Scrolls, Ganges Blessing, Great Primal Beginning, Votive Vote, and the Spirituality in the Public Domain interactive blackboard.

The exhibition, Spirituality in the Public Domain, was acknowledged by the Human Rights Commission in 2007 for promoting religious diversity. It was received by the public with much enthusiasm since its first showing at Pataka Museum in 2005. It also toured to Lake Taupo Museum and to the Suter in Nelson.

Currently, the works from that exhibition are being donated to the wider community, with five of the paintings now in the stewardship of Kenepuru Hospital to be viewed by the public in an ongoing way.

For enquiries about the exhibition opening and showing contact Gill England,  gill.england@xtra.co.nz - Tel: 027 209 8572. For enquiries about receiving the donation of any of the other artworks, please contact Radha Sahar - radha.sahar@gmail.com, Tel: 027 539 9971

Did You Know?

DID YOU KNOW?

In recent years there has been controversy at the United Nations Human Rights Council over the issue of defamation of religions. Each year a number of Islamic states have put forward a resolution calling on action to counter defamation of religions, including legal sanctions. This has been opposed by Western nations on the ground that it conflicts with the right to freedom of expression.  Although the resolution has been passed by the Human Rights Council, it has only done so with a narrow majority and a very large number of abstentions.

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In a recent development, Pakistan, on behalf of Islamic States, proposed a resolution at the Human Rights Council in March which seeks to address both the concern at the increased incidence of religious hatred and the need to preserve freedom of expression.  The resolution was adopted by consensus and provides a useful basis on which to address the issues in as positive manner.

Among other things the resolutions recognises that “the open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national and international levels can be among the best protections against religious intolerance, and can play a positive role in strengthening democracy and combating religious hatred, and that a continuing dialogue on these issues can help overcome existing misperception.”

Read the  full text of the resolution.