When meeting people of different faiths, it is important to remember that we are not just meeting philosophies but human beings, Archbishop John Dew told the interfaith panel last month.
The panel was part of the New Zealand Diversity Forum held to mark the first anniversary of a response to attacks on Jewish cemeteries.
More than 400 people attended the Diversity Forum at Te Papa throughout the day on 23 August.
Archbishop John Dew said it is important that people of different faiths came to appreciate each other as human beings.
‘In a country as small as New Zealand, we do have an opportunity for personal contact with the increasing range of religious traditions.’
He said it was important to find time for information, education and opportunities to reflect.
‘We have such a fast moving society, there is not a lot of time for people to stop and reflect on our own teachings, let alone the teachings of other faiths.’
He said Social Justice Week, promoted by Caritas in the Catholic Church in September, was one opportunity for Catholics to consider issues of cultural diversity, based on the key principles of Catholic social teaching, including human dignity, solidarity and the common good.
Muslim Women’s Council member Rehanna Ali said interfaith dialogue from the outset includes ‘an agreement to disagree’ and it is a pitfall to gloss over our differences.
But, she said greater understanding of each other’s religious traditions was important in a world where the only remaining acceptable prejudice is against religious belief.
‘The actions of 19 hijackers were taken to represent the faith of 1.9 billion people.’
Hindu and interfaith advocate Dr Pushpa Woods said she wanted people to move beyond tolerance and acceptance, to understanding and respect.
‘I don’t want to be tolerated, I want to be understood. I want to understand you, and you to understand me.’
Glyn Carpenter, Director of the Vision New Zealand Network which is a coalition of evangelical Protestant church groups, said there was a need for specific issues that we could discuss as faith communities.
‘There’s not a lot of patience for the more esoteric discussions that have taken place in the past.’
The forum concluded that the further development of a national interfaith network was important to continue interfaith cooperation and dialogue. An immediate focus will be on the international Week of Prayer for World Peace on 16-23 October.