From 28th-30th July 2018, the interfaith movement in New Zealand came together for its biannual New Zealand National Interfaith Forum (NIFF), held in Wellington this year and organised by the Wellington Interfaith Council. A three-day event, held at the National Library and at Parliament, the Forum was an opportunity for people from many different faith backgrounds to meet and discuss interfaith relations, goals, and strategies for social good. The Religious Diversity Centre was also in attendance.
Kicking off with a youth focus day, the event hosted a number of young speakers sharing stories of religious identity and belief in relation to contemporary issues, such as women’s rights and the environment. The use of thematic discussion carried over into the next day, where the same topics were discussed by representatives from different groups and interfaith councils nationwide. Professor Paul Morris (RDC Trustee) presented the draft version of the third New Zealand National Statement on Religious Diversity, and received feedback and comments from attendees in the afternoon. Dr Todd Nachowitz gave the keynote address, speaking on behalf of the Religious Diversity Centre Trust promoting the organisation and its goals. RDC Trustee and Treasurer Ricky Waters also gave a special presentation and mini-workshop entitled ‘Speed Faithing’ which was fun and well-received. RDC Trustee Selva Ramasami was also in attendance. Members representing the various interfaith councils and communities throughout New Zealand (e.g. Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Palmerston North, Hamilton, and Tauranga) were also present and gave reports of the activities of their various interfaith councils.
The final day of the event took place at Parliament, and we were fortunate enough to have representatives from both National and Labour stop by and hear about the issues under discussion. Paul Morris presented the final revisions made to the National Statement on Religious Diversity, which incorporated the feedback from the day before. The Forum concluded with discussions on ‘Ecology’ and ʻThe Role of Women in Faith Organisations.’ Overall, the National Interfaith Forum provided an excellent environment in which to discuss contemporary issues in a respectful, constructive and meaningful way.