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Enabling Different Religions To Coexist

Media release
2 September 2008

Enabling Different Religions To Coexist

More than 100 people of multiple religious persuasions will come together for a "Multifaith" conference at The University of Auckland next week (8-9 September).

They will address the challenges with which increased religious diversity confronts New Zealand society.

Religious debate once concerned mainly Christianity, explains the Rev Uesifili Unasa, the University's Maclaurin Chaplain, who is organising the conference. "Today it includes Buddhism, Islam, Baha'i, Hinduism, Confucianism and many others.

"This is partly because people from other parts of the world are making our country their home," he says. "At the same time people increasingly accept that no single religion is superior to any others.

"The place of religion itself in the public arena, the accommodation of various religious practices in public institutions such as schools and universities, and the real fear of religious conflict are just some of the unresolved questions facing us."

The conference will deal with some of these concerns, says the Rev Unasa. "International and local speakers will talk from different perspectives about how the wisdom of the many religious traditions can enrich and inform our modern age."

A major conference theme, "What does it mean to be a believer in today's multifaith international context?", will be tackled by the keynote speaker, Paul Weller, Professor of Inter-Religious Relations at the University of Derby in England. He is a former Baptist minister and has served on a range of religious-related bodies.

He will argue that at a time of increasing acceptance of different religions, followers of particular faiths need to think and act with modesty, integrity, realism and distinctiveness. "This is the alternative to withdrawing from the world or taking refuge in simplistic and dangerous forms of religious communalism."

Professor Weller regularly broadcasts on radio in Britain. He has been interviewed for regional and national television in the UK as well as for channels broadcasting to the Arab world.

Other issues before the conference include "Religious diversity and equal liberty" and the implications for universities of the global shift to a multifaith perspective.


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