Joint Statement from
Religious Diversity Centre and Human Rights Commission
Roles and Responsibilities of Religious Leaders
in Aotearoa New Zealand
Religious leaders play a crucial role in our society. They support individuals and shape their communities. They engage with other communities, as well as local and central government. These challenging roles require sensitivity, understanding and clarity of vision.
On a range of issues, religious leaders mobilise their communities for concerted action. Recently, many religious leaders in Aotearoa responded positively to COVID-19 by promoting hygiene protocols and vaccination campaigns. They saved the lives of many of their congregants. (Impact of COVID-19 Lockdown on Pacific Churches: Impact, Response, and Recovery (MPP, 2021)
Human rights not only include entitlements they also place responsibilities on all of us to build harmonious relationships. We all have human rights responsibilities to reject hate and bigotry, and foster inclusivity, diversity, and social cohesion. Because of their positions of influence, religious leaders have a special obligation to discharge these human rights responsibilities. They are in a unique position to counter disinformation and conspiracy theories.
We urge all religious leaders to do all they can, within their communities, and in their relationships with other communities, to advance our common humanity, manaakitanga, peace, respect, compassion, human rights and responsibilities, and security for everyone.
In these distressing times, we are indebted to many religious leaders for their constructive and conciliatory contributions, but we also recognise there are others who do not always advance harmonious relationships in Aotearoa.
We strongly encourage religious leaders to ensure their communities understand, in a fair and well-informed way, the experiences, perspectives, and interrelated histories of the peoples of Israel and Palestine.
These complex ‘narratives’ are not always well-understood by our politicians, journalists, and communities.