Archbishop Philip was in Parliament’s Grand Hall this afternoon to witness former Prime Minister, Helen Clark launch the Religious Diversity Centre for Aotearoa New Zealand.
According to its publicity material, The Religious Diversity Centre aims to be “a national centre of educational and research excellence fostering an appreciation for and understanding of religious diversity among all New Zealanders.
“It will provide training and professional development for those working in a multi-cultural, multi-religious environment, high quality research, and educational opportunities. It will also offer a point of call for expert advice on issues of religious diversity for policy makers and media.”
As Prime Minister, Helen Clark supported New Zealand’s National Statement on Religious Diversity and was instrumental in New Zealand becoming one of the four sponsoring nations of a Regional Interfaith Dialogue. She is taking a short break from her duties at the UN at present, and she agreed to be the patron of the new centre.
Archbishop Philip joined leaders of other Christian denominations and leaders of other faiths at today’s launch, and he has described the setting up of the centre as a “sign of hope”.
“At a time when we are seeing increasing tensions and escalating violence often cloaked in the rhetoric of religious extremism, the establishment of the Religious Diversity Centre is a sign of hope.
“We uphold the freedom to express religious beliefs and convictions, within the law. We cherish this for ourselves – and we must cherish and uphold it for those with different beliefs from our own.
“We must be free to disagree, including in relation to matters of religious belief, but we must work to prevent disagreement leading to conflict and we must not tolerate intimidation or violence in our relationships.
“The Religious Diversity Centre will be a significant force for good in our community, we pray its work will be greatly blessed and widely supported.”
The chairperson of the new centre is Jocelyn Armstrong, who is an Anglican with wide leadership experience in both the ecumenical and inter-faith movements.