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

Te Korowai Whakapono: Religious Diversity Network

ISSN 1178-0924 July, 2011

News & Issues

There will be two forums focusing on religious diversity at the New Zealand Diversity Forum at the Claudelands Convention Centre in Hamilton on 21-22 August. 

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The Waikato Interfaith Council will be hosting a forum on raising awareness of religious diversity on Sunday afternoon 3.30pm – 5.00 pm. It will include a presentation by Todd Nachowitz of Waikato University on “Quantifying Cultural and Religious Diversity in New Zealand” and reflections on Islam Awareness Week, Hamilton’s Indigo Faith project and Waikato Museum’s landmark 2007 exhibition on religious diversity, Keeping Faith.

The annual religious diversity forum on Monday 22 August this year will focus on Religion and the State. It is hosted by the Victoria University Religious Studies Programme and will focus on the State and Religion.

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 relationship between the state and religion is 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 include an introduction by Professor Paul Morris and a panel of speakers to discuss the issue.

There is also a wide range of other forums and activities focusing on aspects of New Zealand’s diversity. For more information visit the Diversity Forum webpage. Updates will also be posted on the Diversity Forum Facebook page.

Attendance on Sunday and for individual forums is free. If you are attending for half a day or more on the Monday the registration fee is $50. Register online now.

Vigils led by young people from local faith communities are to be held around the country on 16 July to honour Christchurch and stand in solidarity with the people of the city. 

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The Christchurch service will be held at St Michael’s and All Angels, which suffered the least damage of all the places of worship in the 22 February earthquake and subsequent earthquakes.

“It’s significant to hold the service there because it is the only remaining church in the heart of the city which is fully operational, and is only 10mins away from Cathedral Square” says Lachlan Mackay of the National Interfaith Youth Movement, which is organising the vigils.

Services in other centres are at St Matthew’s in the City in Auckland, St Andrew’s on the Terrace in Wellington and at Dunedin’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

“We carefully chose the venues and to have each vigil in a Christian church reflects that the Christian communities suffered the most of all the faith communities in the 4 major earthquakes to strike so far”.

“The purpose of the vigils is to raise the morale of Christchurch people by letting them know we are still with them.   We also want to do something practical so we are asking people who attend for donations which will be passed on to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal”.

“Any individual from any faith or spiritual community is welcome to attend the vigils between 5pm and 7:30pm to join in the singing and chanting and to personally reflect and meditate on what has happened in Christchurch over the past nine months.  We will also be praying for the city’s recovery and for her people to remain strong,” says Mr Mackay.

The evening will also feature the replaying of the TVNZ and Ministry of Civil Defence memorial videos and will give the chance for all attendees to light candles and let off lanterns into the sky for Christchurch. At the end of each vigil, several locations throughout the cities will toll their bells for two minutes.

For more information contact:

Auckland Vigil Coordinator Tom McGuire
Wellington Vigil Coordinator Lachlan Mackay
Christchurch Vigil Coordinator Isaac Freeman,  021 1511209
Dunedin Vigil Coordinator Angela Loosli

The Umma Trust will be hosting a series of forums on Muslim women’s rights on 21July at AUT in Auckland and 22 July in Wellington.

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The series of forums will be presented by Ratna Osman, Acting Executive Director of Sisters in Islam, a Muslim women’s NGO committed to promoting an understanding of Islam that recognises the principles of Justice, Equality, Freedom and Dignity within a democratic nation state.

For further details contact ummatrust@xtra.co.nz.

Interfaith Activities

The Wellington Inter-Faith Council invites you to attend a combined AGM and talk on Sunday 14 August 2pm – 4.30pm at the 2nd floor Meeting Rooms James Smith Building corner Cuba and Manners Streets in Wellington.

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The talk will be on “Mother Teresa’s Active Compassion and how we can apply it in our daily lives.”  Speakers include: Anu Roy, a Baha’i who worked with Mother Teresa and Sister Milada, from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Porirua Community.

The AGM will take place after the speakers and a Q & A at 3.30pm.

For information contact Paddy Payne.

Very few New Zealanders, if any, had heard of the word maskophobia before two bus drivers in Auckland claimed it as a reason for refusing to allow two Saudi women wearing a niqab to travel on public buses in Auckland this month. A Wellington bus driver for the same company subsequently claimed to suffer from the same phobia.

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The company, New Zealand Bus, did not condone the action, and provided counselling to the Auckland drivers and took disciplinary action by giving them a formal final warning. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition said that people should not be discriminated against on the grounds of religious belief. John Key said “"New Zealand's a tolerant and inclusive society. I think where practical on both sides, people should respect others' cultural and spiritual beliefs."

The Race Relations Commissioner said it was clearly a case of discrimination on the grounds of religious belief. A complaint on the matter was received by the Human Rights Commission and a process of mediation has been agreed to by the company.