Beyond the Bubble: Where to for our community in a diverse world – Post panel report

As a country, in moving on from the closure that the sentencing of the Christchurch terrorist attacker has brought to many, the lesson and need to continue to work at being a caring community that positively embraces diversity, and so resists and counters discriminatory, racist and Islamophobic attitudes and behaviours, remains a priority.
We are contending with two sorts of virus: one biological and the other ideological.
And not everyone is comfortable with diversity.

Here are some key messages from the four panellists:

Sir David Moxon, former Anglican Archbishop of Aotearoa New Zealand:
Religious Diversity and Solidarity – Examples of Justice & Peace Initiatives between Global Faiths Internationally and in Aotearoa

David Moxon introduced the Global Freedom Network which has been set up with the vision of working together to combat human trafficking and modern slavery and so advocate for the freedom of all.

Several multi-faith networks are introduced and currently include the following goals:
– Spiritual and Practical Actions for Justice and Peace
– Globalised World to become a Family of Peoples
– Building an authentic Peace

If we remember that about 80% of the World Population is influenced by Faith-based groups, we will realise that there is a capacity for a Human Family Feeling which is part of a “soft power”. This sense of common solidarity – “Team Human” – is the necessary counter to the exclusionary attitudes and behaviours that arise when diversity is regarded as a problem, and perhaps something to be resisted if not rejected.

Aliya Danzeisen, teacher, lawyer, member of the Islamic Women’s Council of NZ:
Removing “Othering”

By judging according to impositional “Othering”, we are depriving the person of their dignity. “Othering” is manifested by racism and extremism, islamophobia, xenophobia – sustained by ignorance and lack of empathy.
The Qur’an calls on people not to be arrogant and not to look down on others. An example of “othering” given in the Qur’an is when God, according to Islam, asks Iblis (Satan) why he didn’t want to bow to Adam and Iblis replies: “I am better than him. You created me from fire and you created him from clay.” (Qur’an 7:12)
Islam advocates ideals of human togetherness and equality.

The Qur’an, in fact, promotes One Community that embraces and affirms difference – diversity in unity. Here are some examples:
“All Mankind were once one single Community (2:123)
“Nations and Tribes – were created by God, difference was meant to be” (49:13)
“Diversity of Languages and Colours is valuable and powerful” (30:22)

We all have to ask ourselves if we are honestly free of “Othering”, of rejecting diversity and difference, even within our own community?

Dr Heather Kavan, senior lecturer and religion specialist at Massey University

“Seven Unconventional Faith Responses to Covid 19”

From Jehovah’s Witnesses to Gloriavale, each faith had its own challenges during the pandemic. Meanwhile, more people than before were praying, meditating, and reflecting on existential questions.

Here are seven unconventional ways religious and spiritual people responded to Covid:

  1. Fight the spiritual battle – between Satan and Jesus.
  2. Search for prophecies – the Bible, Nostradamus, psychics.
  3. Spread conspiracy theories – Q-Anon on Trump.
  4. Capitalise and exploit – selling protections, cures.
  5. Explore within oneself – healing fears and judgements.
  6. Learn from the virus – non-resistance, slowing down.
  7. Embrace with love – virus restores balance.

Dr Damon Salesa, Pro-Vice Chancellor Pacific at the University of Auckland

“Pacific Religious Futures: Covid intersections”

What are some of the consequences of Covid for the Pasifika People?

  1. A rise in Pacific People with “no religion”: a generational shift
  2. A move away from Pacific – ethnic specific – churches
  3. Growth in Pacific membership of apostolic, charismatic, ‘mega’ congregations
  4. Consolidation of Catholic and LDS Pacific memberships
  5. A diversified Pacific faith landscape, with growing gender and generational differences
  6. The consolidation of a Pacific Christian religious conservativism

The Panel Discussion drew our attention to different aspects of diversity. As Douglas Pratt said: “Diversity itself is diverse”.

Covid 19 has changed the faith landscape and has accelerated changes for many communities. The way these changes are implemented and explained differ.

However, some common traits have emerged: compassion, empathy and avoiding the negativity of “othering”. These have to do with countering the “ideological” viruses that infect us. The biological virus can, of course, affect anybody. There has been discrimination against ethnic, religious and other groups. Today, even Aucklanders can experience “othering” when South Islanders ask them: “Are you clean enough to come and visit us?”

Spirituality and Faith are very resilient. Many people pray, meditate and think about the meaning of life. In this time of Covid 10, we need to find new ways of “holding hands” and ways how to inspire others by our own behaviour to inspire the world.

Be human. Be kind.

If you would like to listen to the Panel Discussion, please click here.
For more information or comments, please contact the Religious Diversity Centre at www.rdc.org.nz.