The Youth Leadership Council Ngā Rangatahi o Māramatanga was launched on 6 July 2022 in the Grand Hall of Parliament Building.
Hosted by MP Ibrahim Omer the event brought together some 60 people from diverse cultures, religions and ethnicities to celebrate the new Council of young adults whose vision is ‘for Aotearoa-New Zealand’s diverse faith communities to be acknowledged, respected and celebrated.’
Jocelyn Armstrong, co-chair of the Religious Diversity Centre Trust, hailed the launch as a milestone reached two years after a team led by Tayyaba Khan began the research and consultations with young people across Aotearoa New Zealand and identified the need for a wider youth voice and participation in religious diversity initiatives.
The event opened with karakia and mihi. MP Ibrahim Omer then set the tone by contextualising the aspirations of Ngā Rangatahi o Māramatanga for peace, cooperation and social cohesion within an international framework in which violent conflict has displaced millions of people in Africa, not just Ukraine where much attention is now focussed. A former refugee himself, Ibrahim reminded everyone that working for social cohesion means working for the human rights of all people everywhere.
In his closing remarks Mervin Singham, Chief Executive of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities reminded us that working for social cohesion has become quite problematic in a media environment in which disinformation and misinformation deliberately subvert scientific facts and arguments based on empirical evidence and moral principles, the basis of ethical public policy. To counter this challenge, he said the vision of Ngā Rangatahi o Māramatanga is absolutely vital because this youth-led multidisciplinary council exists for the purposes of dialogue, respect, understanding and trust across their respective beliefs.
The Youth Council is the first national body of young people from faith–based communities, with representation of those who do not identify with a religion. The Council will design and deliver projects to advance religious diversity in support of the objectives of the Religious Diversity Centre. The members are excited and enthusiastic about the contribution they will be able to make towards ‘peace, cooperation and improving social cohesion throughout Aotearoa-New Zealand’.