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Methodist Church Gives a Stuff About Human Rights

For Immediate Release:

1 Oct 2008

"Methodist Church Does Give a Stuff About Human Rights for Gangs"

In response to Wanganui MP Chester Burrows’ comments on TV3 last night (29/9) that "he doesn't give a stuff about human rights for gangs", Methodist Church President, Rev Brian Turner and Wesley Community Action Director, David Hanna, said that the Church cares deeply about the human rights of all people, including those whom society has labelled as gang members.

"When we have politicians openly supporting the denial of human rights for one segment of our population then we as a society should be very worried” remarked Brian Turner.

Over a number of years Wesley Community Action has developed positive relationships with a range of members and leaders of ‘gangs’, said David Hanna. “It is very clear from this experience that there are members within these groups that are very committed to being positive members of communities. This is hard for people to hear and accept because the general public has been fed a very limited view of their lives.”

Last week, Wesley Community Action organized a public workshop to hear some of this ‘other side’ of the story of ‘gangs’. “This was a rare opportunity for the 150 participants to hear directly from people within these communities (Black Power and Mongrel Mob) of the positive differences they are making. This was not a gathering of 150 apologists or do-gooders – it was a wide cross section of citizens who value having respectful conversations and hearing the full story before we rush to simplistic and draconian solutions,” said David.

Brian Turner believes that the legislative moves being planned against gangs are a knee-jerk slap-them-down throw-away-the-key approach which will only drive gangs underground and into more extreme behavior. It will also undermine the sound efforts of Wesley Community Action and other organizations who are working to support the positive initiatives occurring within these communities.

“Yes – let’s not kid ourselves, there are behaviours within these communities that are negative and harmful to the individuals and wider communities. And yes – we all have a right to want this to stop. But we want initiatives to address this negative behaviour to be effective.

Sweeping ‘zero tolerance’ and ‘get tough’ approaches haven’t worked – let’s use our collective intelligence, our compassion and the insights from many perspectives to enable us to move forward positively,” emphasized Brian Turner.

“Chester Burrows and other community leaders ought to take a leaf out of Rob Muldoon's book. The late National Prime Minister established good relationships with a number of gangs and always tried to work constructively with them.”


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