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Review shows busy year for interfaith activities

Human Rights Commission

17 January, 2008

Review shows busy year for interfaith activities

A section of the 2007 Race Relations Report will be released at an Interfaith workshop hosted by Auckland City this Saturday.

The review of interfaith activities reveals a busy and significant year for cooperation and dialogue for the country’s religious communities.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said the 2006 census pointed to significant increases in religious diversity in the past decade.

New Zealand had made an important contribution to global interfaith understanding by hosting an international symposium on the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations initiative in May and the Asia-Pacific Interfaith Dialogue at Waitangi (Building Bridges), also in May.

Earlier in the year the development of the Statement on Religious Diversity in New Zealand had prompted much public discussion. It was finalised after being endorsed by the national interfaith forum in February, 2007 and published in May, when it prompted a demonstration by the Destiny Church against the principle in the statement about the need for separation of church and state.

Many organisations have endorsed the statement, including the Anglican and Catholic Bishops of New Zealand, the Federation of Islamic Associations, the Council of Christians and Jews, the Methodist Church Conference, Buddhist, Baha’i and other faith and interfaith groups. The statement was also at the centre of a major exhibition at Waikato Museum, Keeping Faith, which continues until March this year.

Mr de Bres said that the statement provides a good basis for ongoing community discussion on religious diversity within a human rights framework.

In August last year, the annual New Zealand Diversity Forum considered the sometimes vexed issues surrounding religion and schools. The Human Rights Commission produced guidelines on religious instruction for school boards.

Strong support for teaching about religious diversity in schools was reflected in the diversity principle underpinning the new school curriculum released in November.

Mr de Bres said that interfaith activities in 2008 would include the national interfaith forum in Wellington in March (including a youth forum and a women’s forum), further discussion of the Statement on Religious Diversity, New Zealand participation in the Asia Pacific Interfaith Dialogue in Cambodia and a New Zealand Action Plan for the UN Alliance of Civilisations initiative.

ENDS

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