Newsletter 18 December 2022

As the 2022 year draws to a close, the Religious Diversity Centre wishes our readers a refreshing holiday break, and a blessed celebration of the festivals of Hanukkah and Christmas for our Jewish and Christian communities.
The sharing of our celebrations with one another is cause in itself for celebration as our religions and our communities become more real and interesting to one another.

The celebration of Hannukah began in Jewish homes at nightfall on Sunday, 18 December with the lighting of the first Hanukkah light of the Menorah. An additional candle will be lit each night up until all eight are lit on the last day of Hanukkah. 
But in a new tradition the Jewish community in Wellington shared the celebration with a public ‘Hanukkah in the Park’ event on Sunday afternoon. A similar public  interreligious event with food stalls and activities was also held in Auckland.

The Spirit of Christmas was shared by a group of Hindu elders when they invited  RDC trustee, Ricky Waters, to join them in their regular meeting in early December. A Hindu speaker and Ricky Waters, as a Christian,  each shared  how their communities embraced the spirit of Christmas.

Even Santa Claus joined Trustee Ricky Waters and the elders for a photograph.

The Religious Leaders Forum, hosted each year by the RDC, met in Auckland on 30 November. 
The Hon Priyanca Radhakrishnan was welcomed as Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities. The issue of diversity was explored in the morning discussions. The Minister explained the two Government initiatives that give our diverse society a way forward to developing a more cohesive and inclusive society: Te Korowai Whetū Social Cohesion Strategic Framework was developed by the Ministry for Social Development.  The priorities for action of the new Ministry of Ethnic Communities seek to assist the ethnic communities to feel included – with one another, with Tangata Whenua and with the wider society.
In response, the Leaders identified the various ways in which the religious communities contribute to developing cohesion and inclusion in society.
The afternoon discussion focused on two reports:
Rod Oram who had just returned from attending the UNCOP27 Climate Change Conference explained that in spite of the lack of political leadership, new and significant commitments had been agreed to by the Conference. These had been urged by the groups of civil society including the faith groups and an impressive presence of young people.  Interview with Rod Oram.
Professor Paul Morris reported that the RDC Report which had been commissioned by the Minister of Education in response to the Religious Leaders 2019 proposal for the introduction of religious studies in New Zealand schools had been discussed by the Cabinet. Religious diversity is now acknowledged in the NZ Curriculum ‘diversity’ framework.  A focus on religion and the religions will be included in Social Studies teaching and learning materials where appropriate.
More information on the 2023 Religious Leaders Forum.

Together in Humanity 2022
‘Together in Humanity’ was the theme of conferences organised by two Muslim organisations,  FIANZ, the Federation of Islamic Associations, and The Lady Khadija Trust, duringthe past month. I was a guest at both, and I am confident that  the reports from both events will be an important resource for our reflection when the time comes for looking back and seeking to learn from a difficult few years.
The FIANZ conference focused on the ‘Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the spirituality and wellbeing,  physical, social and societal, of the faith communities in Aotearoa New Zealand’. The RDC was invited to provide a group of speakers from different faith communities.
The Lady Khadija Trust conference in Christchurch was also interfaith and focused on two issues: homelessness and food security. The conclusion of the day’s discussions  was that the different Christchurch agencies working in the two areas should be consulting and working together. It was decided that a white paper be drawn up to take the proposal further.

Climate Action Stories: The RDC website continues to receive stories of actions being taken by religious communities in the face of climate change.

As Rod Oram encouraged us: “It’s up to all of us to act. Each of us can do a tiny bit. Together we can achieve the transformations we urgently need” – ‘Together in humanity’ !

The Religious Diversity 2023 Calendar
There are some few copies left – It is not too late if you have forgotten to register your order: Click here to order. Our warmest greetings as we look to the New Year with hope, and with prayers for healing and peace throughout the world.

Jocelyn Armstrong
Honorary Executive Director
The Religious Diversity Centre in Aotearoa New Zealand

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