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Draft National Statement on Religious Diversity

Human Rights Commission

30 October 2006

Feedback invited on Draft National Statement on Religious Diversity

Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres is inviting public feedback on a statement setting out the rights and responsibilities relating to religion and belief in New Zealand.

"In the context of current global conflicts it is important that we recognise the diversity of religions in New Zealand and encourage understanding and communication between them. This will help us to avoid the types of conflicts happening elsewhere," said Mr de Bres.

With increased migration from Fiji, Asia, the Middle East and Africa there are now significant communities of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in New Zealand as well as many other smaller religious groups.

The statement aims to promote religious tolerance; improve communication between government and faith communities; affirm the right to freedom of religion; and provide a framework for the development and maintenance of harmonious relationships within communities.

"I am hoping that the draft statement will form the basis for interfaith and community discussion at a local level, and thereafter provide a framework in which to discuss issues of religious diversity as they arise."

The idea of a national statement was raised by the New Zealand delegation to the first Asia-Pacific Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation held in Indonesia in 2004.

Professor Paul Morris of the Victoria University Religious Studies Programme developed the initial draft and a working group of faith community members and human rights representatives was convened by Professor Morris and Mr de Bres in October to discuss the proposal further.

Local government, interfaith groups, faith communities, Members of Parliament, and other community groups have now been invited to discuss the draft and provide comment.

The closing date for responses is 15 December.

Following review of submissions the revised statement will be presented to the National Interfaith Forum in Hamilton in February for endorsement.

The draft statement, feedback forms and background information can be found on the Commission's website: www.hrc.co.nz/religiousdiversity

ENDS


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