Sunday, September 13, 2009
Religious Diversity in New Zealand
The first edition of the Statement on Religious Diversity in New Zealand in 2007 was the result of an extensive consultation and the contribution of people of diverse religious backgrounds. It sparked debate, and sometimes controversy, in the respective religious traditions.
Two years later, in the light of the value of the work done since then, the Roman Catholic Church has endorsed the revised edition.
In the new Statement, the eight key principles of 2007 are retained; the commentary on each of these reflects the changes and experience of the past two years. The revised text reflects submissions from the public and from organizations, especially faith groups and churches.
Principle 8 on Cooperation and Understanding reads: Government and faith communities have a responsibility to build and maintain positive relationships with each other, and to promote mutual respect and understanding. The Statement recognizes the right for Christian schools to provide “a programme of religious instruction as part of an individuals’ formation within a particular faith,” but also affirms that “education in schools about religious diversity is essential if we are to understand New Zealanders, our Asia-Pacific region and the wider world in which we live.”
This latest version of the Statement is unlikely to be the last; as John A Dew, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wellington notes: We have heard today of the need for dialogue / debate / discussion on religion in the work place - this will be ongoing and this statement should be a framework for national debate.
More information about the Statement, its revisions and other related matters are on the related Human Rights Commission website.