Clark: FIANZ – NZ Muslims Stakeholders Forum 2008
EMBARGOED UNTIL DELIVERY
2.00 PM MONDAY 30 JUNE 2008
Rt Hon Helen Clark
FIANZ – NZ MUSLIMS STAKEHOLDERS FORUM 2008
Monday 30 June 2008
Thank you for inviting me to say a few words to this important forum of Muslim leaders in our country.
I am especially pleased that the forum is taking place here at our Parliament. It is very important that all New Zealanders are made welcome here. Our job as MPs is to represent our country's diverse communities and ensure that each one has a voice.
In recent years our government has invited representatives of New Zealand's Islamic communities to Parliament to celebrate Eid, acknowledging its great significance to Muslims here and around the world.
We New Zealanders live in a region of many ethnicities, civilisations, and faiths. We are accepted in the Asia-Pacific – as indeed throughout the world – as genuine and constructive partners. In turn, we believe we can contribute to the development of a more peaceful and prosperous world.
Our Labour Government is committed to peaceful solutions of the world's problems. We believe that war is seldom an answer. We refused to participate in the war in Iraq. We look for constructive relations with the Islamic world.
Our experience of building a more inclusive society at home and engaging in interfaith initiatives in our own region gives us hope that we can help build a world which respects and accommodates difference, and acts on good neighbour principles in promoting peace and development.
Building peace, prosperity, and security starts at home – and it starts with building strong families. That is the focus of this stakeholders meeting today.
You have heard today or will be hearing from our Families and Children's Commissioners, our Ministries of Social Development, Youth Development, Education, and Health. The New Zealand Police, the Office of Ethnic Affairs, our sport and recreation agency - SPARC, the Race Relations Conciliator, Professor Paul Morris, Ministers, and your own leaders are all making contributions to the discussion.
Government certainly has a big role to play in supporting our families.
Our government has worked for eight and a half years to reduce unemployment, give greater income security through Working for Families, reduce the cost of going to the doctor, and invest as much as we can in education – all the way from early childhood to tertiary.
We have brought in Paid Parental Leave and a fourth week's annual holiday as of right. Both these are important in giving families more time with their children.
I strongly believe that a rising tide should lift every boat. So as our country's economy has grown, we have looked to invest as much as we can back into important services and support for our families.
But obviously government on its own can't build strong families.
Strong families are built on love, care, and concern for each other. Strong families bind together to look after their children and older and frail family members. If every family pulled together in this way, we could reduce crime and social problems even more.
So I applaud FIANZ for focusing on these issues. And I pledge the support of our Labour Government for a fair and inclusive society which makes it possible for young Muslim New Zealanders to grow up as valued participants in our multicultural society.
As you know our government has taken a number of initiatives to promote a cohesive society which acknowledges the talents and contribution of every community. These include :
• the 'Connecting Diverse Communities' project led by the Ministry of Social Development and the Office of Ethnic Affairs;
• the Building Bridges project between FIANZ and the Office of Ethnic Affairs
• support for the Statement on Religious Diversity developed through the interfaith dialogue process
• sponsorship of the Asia-Pacific Interfaith Dialogue Forums and the attendance of multifaith delegations from New Zealand
• hosting of the 'Alliance of Civilisations' Asia-Pacific Regional Symposium in Auckland;
In January this year, Chris Carter, as Ethnic Affairs Minister represented New Zealand at the first United Nations' sponsored international 'Alliance of Civilisations' Conference in Madrid. He outlined to the Conference our government's Plan of Action to support the 'Alliance of Civilisations' objectives. The work we are doing received positive international feedback.
This work includes strengthening the capacity of the education system to promote understanding of diverse civilisations and faiths; supporting the establishment of an Islamic Studies Centre at a New Zealand University and promoting youth exchanges between countries.
I am making copies of the Plan of Action available here today.
I thank FIANZ for the strong commitment it makes to supporting New Zealand's Islamic communities and to liaising with government. We share the same objectives of ensuring that New Zealand Muslims are valued, respected, and able to make their full contribution to our country.
I wish you all the best for the remaining sessions of the Conference, and hope you are able to take many new and good ideas back to your communities.