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National Statement on Religious Diversity Proposed

Human Rights Commission

16 August 2006

National Statement on Religious Diversity Proposed

A national statement on religious diversity will be discussed next week at a forum of senior government representatives and religious leaders.

Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, says the idea of a statement had been floated with the Prime Minister earlier this year in response to increased religious diversity in New Zealand and international tensions around religion.

"A national statement supported by government and the community would provide a useful reference point for schools, business, councils, media, local government and communities in addressing the challenges of religious diversity", he said.

Mr de Bres said the interfaith forum would focus on three issues - the proposed national statement, actions to promote religious tolerance in local communities, and the role of schools in fostering religious understanding.

"We have seen incidents of religious hatred and reflections of international conflict in New Zealand in the last two years and the purpose of the forum is for government and religious leaders to address these in a practical way.

"Governments and faith communities have an interest in working together to promote dialogue, understanding, peace and security."

Speakers at the forum will include Cabinet Ministers Steve Maharey, Chris Carter and Winnie Laban, Chief Executives of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Ministry of Education, Catholic Archbishop John Dew, Anglican Bishop Richard Randerson, Islamic Federation President Javed Kahn and other interfaith representatives.

The interfaith forum is part of the New Zealand Diversity Forum (NZDF) being held at Te Papa Tongawera in Wellington from 20-22 August. The NZDF is a major national forum covering a wide range of topics on national identity, cultural diversity and harmonious relations attended by hundreds of people from across the country.

Full details of the programme and the registration form are available at www.hrc.co.nz/diversityforum

ENDS

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