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Commission launches updated Statement on Religious Diversity

Graphic: New Zealand Diversity Ferm

This third edition reflects changes in New Zealand’s religious composition and acknowledges the impact of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission has partnered with the Office of Ethnic Communities and the Religious Diversity Centre to launch the third edition of the Statement on Religious Diversity.

The Statement was originally published and endorsed by a wide range of faith groups in 2007. A second edition followed 2009.

This third edition reflects changes in New Zealand's religious composition and acknowledges the impact of the Christchurch mosque attacks in March 2019.

"That day will be forever etched in our collective memories as the day a simple act of prayer led to the loss of 51 lives," New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said in the Foreword to the Statement

"However, we also remember that day for the way New Zealanders of all beliefs reached out and supported the Muslim community in their grief," she said.

"In the aftermath of this attack, New Zealanders reaffirmed our commitment to a culturally and religiously diverse society, a society that rejects racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance."

Over the years, the Statement has been supported by former Race Relations Commissioners and more broadly, the Human Rights Commission's role has been to remind New Zealanders of the various international treaties (including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), that uphold the right to freedom of religion and belief: the right to hold a belief; the right to change one's religion or belief; the right to express one's religion or belief; and the right not to hold a belief.


Graphic: Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt meets with a representative of Christchurch's Muslim community


The State and Religion

The State seeks to treat all faith communities and those who profess no religion equally before the law. New Zealand has no official or established religion.

The Right to Religion

New Zealand upholds the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of religious or other belief.

The Right to Safety

Faith communities and their members have a right to safety and security.

The Right to Freedom of Expression

The right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media are vital for democracy but should be exercised with responsibility.

Recognition and Accommodation

Reasonable steps should be taken in educational and work environments and in the delivery of public services to recognise and accommodate diverse religious beliefs and practices.

Education

Schools should teach an understanding of different religious and spiritual traditions in a manner that reflects the diversity of their local community and the national context.

Religious Differences

Debate and disagreement about religious beliefs will occur but must be exercised without resort to violence and within the rule of law.

Cooperation and Understanding

Government and faith communities have a responsibility to build and maintain positive relationships with each other, and to promote mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.

Read the statement here (pdf) | Read the statement here (doc)

Date: 19 September 2019

Source: New Zealand Human Rights Commission

Image credits

  1. New Zealand Diversity Ferm - New Zealand Human Rights Commission
  2. Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt meets with a representative of Christchurch's Muslim community - New Zealand Human Rights Commission