National Meeting of Religious Leaders Held in Auckland

The Religious Diversity Centre organised and hosted the inaugural meeting of national religious leaders representing the wide variety of faith and belief groups throughout Aotearoa New Zealand on 15 November 2017 at the Religious Diversity Centre in Auckland. Archbishops and other leaders from Christian denominations, as well as representatives from Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Bahá’í, Buddhist, Jewish, Latter Day Saints and the Rātana Church communities were present.

Jocelyn Armstrong, Chairperson of the Centre Trust, shared a message from the Centre’s patron, the Rt Hon Helen Clark, who wrote “Understanding and tolerance between faiths play a vital part in maintaining peace and harmony within and between societies.”

Group of religious leaders

The group confirmed their commitment to respecting religious diversity in New Zealand, ensuring that people of all faiths can live in harmony. In addition, the leaders shared the following concerns which need urgent action:

  • The growing levels inequality and poverty in New Zealand, which can only be solved through addressing structural issues.
  • The need for increased levels of training for teachers to feel confident in bringing religious diversity education into classrooms. By improving understanding of each other’s commonalities and differences, we will be able to increase religious harmony in New Zealand.
  • The importance of recognising the climate crisis as an urgent issue for human beings, which impacts the well-being of everyone on the planet.

The leaders are already working within their own faith communities to implement solutions to these issues but are calling for wider collective action and advocacy. Lasting solutions require action from central and local government as well as from civil society.

The religious leaders committed to working together to provide leadership at a time of global turmoil, and look forward to meeting regularly to achieve these and other aims.


Invitation to Give Feedback on Religious Diversity Statement

Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission invites you to participate in the consultation process to review the New Zealand National Statement on Religious Diversity.

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Workshops around NZ: Preventing Suicide

Over 600 New Zealanders take their lives every year, with countless more experiencing suicidal ideas or acting on these thoughts in the form of non-fatal suicide attempts.
Studies have shown that around 60% of those who die by suicide, speak to a helping professional in the weeks prior to their death.  All human services professionals need a framework for assessing and intervening with suicidal clients, to ensure that these opportunities for intervention are utilised for the maximum benefit of their at-risk clients.
John Henden is an international trainer, author and therapist from the UK.
He will be running workshops in New Zealand in February/March 2018.

The persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar/Burma

Although the focus of the NZBC is largely within New Zealand, sometimes the severity of a situation demands that we respond, and the persecution of the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military is one of these. In September our Chairperson Amala Wrightson attended a rally to draw attention to the crisis and stand with local Rohingya and other Muslims, and more recently Ajahn Chandako, the Abbot of Vimutti Monastery near Auckland, spoke at a gathering of Rohingya and Burmese Buddhists and sent the following report:

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Explore sacred spaces in Auckland

4 to 12 November 2017

Come along and join us as Auckland’s diverse faith groups open their doors to introduce us to their faith and ways of worship!

Visit the houses of worship at the times listed below – but please also check the “Sacred Spaces 2017” page on the Auckland Interfaith Council website for updates.

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English lessons for Buddhist monks & nuns

This year, over 20 monks and nuns from diverse Buddhist communities in the Auckland region communities have been enjoying the opportunity to improve their English and meet each other. The monastics are based at temples and small centres around the Auckland region, and connected with immigrant communities from places such as Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Rukman Wagachchi from the Buddhist Council organised the classes, which were held at the Srilankaramaya temple in Otahuhu.

Monks and nuns studying EnglishThe Level One English class was free for learners with Permanent Residency (12 participants had PR and 17 participants did not). Classes ran two days a week, Tuesdays & Thursdays for half a day each week from April to August 2017. Tutors from the Manukau Institute of Technology taught the course, and they were briefed about how to treat the monastics respectfully.
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Member Profile: Nam Kook Temple

This is the first in a series of features about our member organisations around Aotearoa New Zealand.

Nam Kook temple is a supporting organisation of the New Zealand Buddhist Council. In the past, the Buddhist Council has assisted the temple by writing a supporting letter for Ven. Dong Jin’s application for Permanent Residency. This temple has around a hundred householder members, Korean Buddhists living in the Auckland region. It’s connected with a temple in Korea called Ankook Suwon.

Buddha’s birthday is a colourful festival, celebrated in May each year, and it’s a great time to visit Nam Kook temple in rural west Auckland. The event is partly a cultural festival: there’s much to enjoy, from performances of music, drumming and dancing, to family activities including face-painting and lantern-making.

It’s a religious festival, with a sermon, chanting, and a ceremony of bathing the Baby Buddha, in a Buddha Hall bedecked with hundreds of colourful paper lanterns. And then there’s a feast with tables laden with Korean temple food — an array of tasty and beautifully-presented vegetarian delights. People from the wider community attend, including local neighbours. A music concert is held, and performances have been given by the local Kumeu Brass Band, members of the Hare Krishna Temple across the road from Nam Kook, a Korean Traditional Dance Team, Korean Catholic Church families, and much more.

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Solution-focussed suicide prevention

New Zealand has a high rate of suicides. UK-based psychologist John Henden recently visited New Zealand to teach strategies for working with people at risk of killing themselves. He also wrote this article. In Hastings this August, he taught a One Day Intensive Workshop, with 120 people attending.

Clare Woodham (Phuntsok Choeling Hawkes Bay Buddhist Centre, Napier) reports:

John Henden has 30 years’ experience in the field, in different intervention centres with different degrees of success. He and others in this area of work have identified basic ways to rapidly build rapport, engage empathically with people, then use specific question techniques to help turn their minds away from considering suicide and into considering other ways of ending their suffering.

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New website

This new website enables the Buddhist Council to update content more quickly, and to provide the Buddhist Council’s aims in different languages. The WordPress site has been developed thanks to many hours of work by Executive Committee assistants Pimmy Takdhada and Robert Hunt, with valuable advice from Tim Wylie in Auckland.