Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres is inviting public feedback on a statement setting out the rights and responsibilities relating to religion and belief in New Zealand.
‘In the context of current global conflicts it is important that we recognise the diversity of religions in New Zealand and encourage understanding and communication between them. This will help us to avoid the types of conflicts happening elsewhere,’ said Mr de Bres.
With increased migration from Fiji, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, there are now significant communities of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in New Zealand as well as many other smaller, religious groups.
The statement aims to promote religious tolerance; improve communication between government and faith communities; affirm the right to freedom of religion; and provide a framework for the development and maintenance of harmonious relationships within communities.
‘I am hoping that the draft statement will form the basis for interfaith and community discussion at a local level, and thereafter provide a framework in which to discuss issues of religious diversity as they arise.’
The idea of a national statement was raised by the New Zealand delegation to the first Asia-Pacific Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation held in Indonesia in 2004.
Professor Paul Morris of the Victoria University Religious Studies Programme developed the initial draft and convened a working group of faith community members and human rights representatives last month to discuss the proposal further.
The closing date for responses is 15 December.
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