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Taking Positive Action For Race Relations



Tuesday 21 March is specially designated as the day on which every person is asked to begin to double their efforts to combat racism, in all its forms, in our homes, communities and work places. It is United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In New Zealand, this is the second year that this day has been marked and celebrated as Race Unity Day.

Dr Rajen Prasad, Race Relations Conciliator, said there are many important changes taking place in New Zealand. It is more common today to belong to communities comprising many different cultures. We also live at a time when almost every continent in the world has examples of serious race conflict. A number of well known cases have developed into violence and war.

"We need to take note of these facts and work consistently to eliminate any risk of race conflicts occurring or escalating in New Zealand," said Dr Prasad. "Race Unity Day provides an opportunity to take some steps towards this goal".

"While many New Zealanders are becoming exposed to different languages, music, cuisine, art and varied images of culture, they are seeking quality opportunities to get to know more about the cultures of others," said Dr Prasad.

"Race Unity Day provides an opportunity for each person to take a small step to bridge this gap. There are many ways of marking Race Unity Day and for stepping outside our familiar patterns of behaviour and interaction to meet and get to know someone from a different culture."

The Race Relations Conciliator said he is encouraging people to learn a little more about each other and to start a dialogue with a person, who is not known to them, from a different culture through the simple act of sharing a meal on 21 March. This could be any meal from breakfast to supper but in the process of meeting and arranging the activities associated with this task, people will begin to break barriers and learn new things about each other's cultures.

Dr Prasad will be hosting a luncheon for 20 guests, including some celebrities from a range of cultures in the foyer of the Downtown Shopping Centre in Auckland on 20 March. This is designed to highlight Race Unity Day and to encourage others to share a meal with someone new from a different culture. He will also be with his staff in the Christchurch Square on 21 March. Many schools, churches, and organisations have been circulated with material about Race Unity Day, encouraging them to mark it in some appropriate way. Baha'i communities throughout New Zealand have organised a number of activities for this day.

The Lower Hutt City Council is again hosting a festival in Lower Hutt to mark this Day.

"The most important actions against racism and for promoting cross cultural understanding are taken personally by individuals and families. I urge all New Zealanders to take a small step towards a society free of racism, discrimination and prejudice on this day and then to maintain the impetus throughout the year in any way they can," said Dr Prasad.

Information and materials about Race Unity Day are available from Julie Watson on 0800 808 440.


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