Recent Events


RDC hosts first national meeting of religious leaders in Aotearoa – Nov 2017

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 Ratana Church communities were present.

In her words of welcome to the Religious Diversity Centre, 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.”

Jocelyn assured the gathering that this meeting of the country’s religious leaders was a powerful symbol of inter-religious relations, and of the accepting, inclusive and dynamic society we all desire – rooted in respectful relationships that do not blur the distinctiveness of each specific religious tradition”.

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 of 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 Religious Leaders in attendance are already working within their own faith communities to implement solutions to these issues, but call for wider collective action and advocacy. Lasting solutions require action from central and local government, as well as from civil society.

The Leaders also called for a humane resolution to the situation on Manus Island, supporting the offer of relocating 150 refugees to New Zealand. “Asylum seekers must be treated with dignity and given a chance to live in safety and freedom. Irrespective of any political and religious differences, we are facing a humanitarian crisis in the Pacific region, and we need to come together to resolve this issue”.

In attendance, representing the faith traditions, were:

Bahá’í Faith: Dr Shirin Foroughian (Chief Executive Officer, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of New Zealand), Paddy Paine (Coordinator, Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs);
Buddhism: Sensei Amala Wrightson (Chairperson, New Zealand Buddhist Council), Venerable Abbess Manshin (Fo Guang Shan Temple, Manukau), Sally Wong (Vice President, BLIA, North Island), Ajahn Chandako (Vimutti Buddhist Monastery);
Christianity: Archbishop Philip Richardson (Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia), Cardinal John Dew (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wellington), Rev Prince Devanandan (President, Methodist Church of New Zealand), Glyn Carpenter (New Zealand Christian Network), Elder David Thomson (LDS); Apotoro Takiwa Kereama Pene (Takiwa, Senior Apostle, Tamaki Makaurau, Ratana Church) and Apotoro Rehita Daniel Nehemia (Apotoro, Orakei Tamaki Makaurau and Waiheke Island);
Hinduism: Shridhara Mysore (Hindu Council Community Outreach and Liaison), Acharya Ajay Tiwari (Jyotish Trust), Krishnachandra Das (ISKON);
Islam: Shaykh Mohammed Amir (FIANZ Religious Advisor), Sheikh Rafat Najm (Chaplain, AUT and Al-Hikmah Trust), Anjum Rahman (Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand); Hoda Fahmy, Dialogue student;
Judaism: Rabbi Nathanel Friedler (Auckland Hebrew Congregation);
Sikhism: Ram Singh (Founder, Gurdwara Guru Tech Bahadur Sahib), Gurinder Singh Shadipur (Trustee, Sikh Centre New Zealand).

Others in attendance representing:

Religious Diversity Centre: Jocelyn Armstrong (RDC Trust Chairperson), Jenny Te Paa Daniel (RDC Deputy Chairperson), Prof. Paul Morris (RDC Trustee, Victoria University of Wellington), Bhai Verpal Singh (RDC Trustee, Sikh Centre), Ricky Waters (RDC Trustee, Coordinating Chaplain, Massey & Unitec), Dr Nicholas Thompson (RDC Trustee, Auckland University);
Human Rights Commission: Tuiloma Lina-Jodi Vaine Samu (Human Rights Advisor-Pasifika).


Christianity: Rev Fakaofo Kaio (Moderator Designate, Presbyterian Church), Rev Diana Tana (Te Haahi Weteriana o Aotearoa), Elder Paul Coward (LDS);
Hinduism: Dr Kantibhai Patel (Swaminarayan Mandir), Kalasamvara Das (ISKON);
Islam: Seyed Taghi Derhamy (Islamic Ahlulbayt Foundation);
Judaism: Rabbi JoEllen Duckor (Temple Sinai, Wellington), Rabbi Yitzchak Mizrahi (Beth El Synagogue, Wellington);
Religious Diversity Centre: Dr Todd Nachowitz (RDC Centre Coordinator, University of Waikato)
Human Rights Commission: Dame Susan Devoy, Rakesh Naidoo.


Young People in Jewish-Muslim dialogue:

The students who took part in the Jewish Muslim students’ dialogues in Wellington and Auckland spoke highly of the experience. The RDC thanks Professor Paul Morris, Sultan Eusoff and Dr Zain Ali for their leadership. We were encouraged by the students’ enthusiastic response to the dialogue, but distressed to learn that each one of them had a story to tell of being harassed, some quite severely. The RDC will continue to hold more such dialogues in the future.

RDC receives visit from French interfaith youth group:

Four French students spent ten days in New Zealand during November 2017. They are away from home for seven months in order to visit 20 countries. In each place, they are recording both story and video, as well as the various interfaith people, groups, and activities they discover during their travels.

They belong to the interfaith group ‘CoExister,’ an organisation begun by a young person in Paris after one of the terrorist incidents in that city. Organised by and involving the 18 to 40 age group, CoExister has spread from France into Europe and England. This is the third such annual interfaith journey undertaken by young people in the organisation. On their return the students will speak in order to share what they have learned, in schools and conferences in all the major cities in France and further afield in Europe.

The students spent time in Auckland, New Plymouth and Wellington. They were blown away by the open friendliness they witnessed in the religiously diverse gatherings we involved them in. The students thank their hosts in Auckland, New Plymouth and Wellington.

More information on the group can be found at: <>.


 Reformation 500 Conference: Commemorating  500 years of the Protestant Reformation

The Reformation 500 Conference was held in Hamilton, New Zealand, at the Meteor Theatre and St Peter’s Cathedral from 29 – 31 October 2017. For more information, please visit the Conference’s website at <>.

The 1517 Reformation was arguably one of the major game changers in Western and World History and has had huge implications for the South Pacific. The Reformation had an impact on much human activity and thought. We, a group of New Zealand-based scholars and artists with a keen interest in the intersection between religion and society, took a closer look at the Reformation and its legacies.

On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the 1517 Reformation we  organised a series of workshops, presentations, exhibitions and other events with a view to exploring the nature and impact of the Reformation on our communities. This exploration accommodated a broad and inclusive range of contributions.

Being ourselves of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, we encouraged a wide spectrum of participations. We engaged in a dialogical process that enriched our understanding of the ongoing significance of (re-)formative ideas and practices in religion and society.

Reformation and the Arts
We will create spaces for artistic presentation and discussion including concerts, exhibitions, performances and a poetry competition.

Organising Team:
Rev Br Andrew McKean (Local Organiser)
Dr Norman Franke (Program Chair for Reformation and the Arts)
Dr Rowland Weston (Program Chair for Rethinking the Reformation)
Annika Hinze (Social Media & Communications)
Dr Rachael Griffiths-Hughes (Music, University of Waikato)
Dr Todd Nachowitz (Religious Studies, University of Waikato)
Dr Colm Mckeogh (Political Science, University of Waikato)

For more information contact:
Dr Norman Franke: <frankebowell @> ‘Reformation and the Arts’
Dr Rowland Weston: <rowland09 @> ‘Rethinking the Reformation’


Dr Tomek Wiśniewski : “Polish-Jewish History:  A Christian Documentary filmmaker’s view on remembering the Holocaust”

Sunday 27 August 2017, 6:00-7:30pm
RDC Centre, University of Otago House, 385 Queen Street, Auckland


Over several decades, Dr Tomek Wiśniewski has meticulously documented Polish-Jewish history, has written numerous books and articles and produced a number of documentary films on the subject. He has worked tirelessly, as he puts it, ‟to ensure the past is not forgotten”.  As well as teaching himself Hebrew, Dr Wiśniewski also speaks several other languages, including Esperanto, and authored a book about its founder, Jewish Bialystoker Ludwik Zamenhof.  Tomek pioneered the documentation of Jewish cemeteries in shtetls of the Podlasie region of Poland, including several thousand photographs of Jewish gravestones, along with those of Catholic, Muslim and Christian Orthodox faiths. This comprehensive research material can be viewed on <>, a website named after the Bialystok district of Poland, which contains the largest Jewish cemetery in north-east Poland, alongside Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran (Protestant) cemeteries – all visible reminders of the region’s rich multicultural heritage nearly obliterated by the Holocaust. That these lie peacefully next to each other in Bagnówka provides a potent symbol of what Tomek is seeking to achieve in the spirit of partnership and tolerance, as illustrated in his short films.

Tomek has been committed to honouring and documenting, through photography, books and film, the history of the Jewish people in Poland and their cultural legacy. Many Jews around the world can trace their ancestry back to Poland and especially Bialystok, the major city of eastern Poland. Tomek lives in Bialystok and regularly guides visitors from around the world with roots in Bialystok.

Before World War II, Bialystok’s population was more than 60% Jewish, giving it the highest concentration of Jews of any city in the world. An estimated 200,000 Jews from the Bialystok region were murdered, including those taken to nearby Treblinka. Today, only about half a dozen Jews live in the city, which was largely rebuilt after heavy destruction in the war. Tomek has intimate knowledge of this history and with his professional journalism background will captivate his audiences in New Zealand.

A talented screenwriter, cameraman, editor and director, Dr Wiśniewski produces moving and informative works, all on a tight budget, and is currently focused on documenting elderly Poles reminiscing about their country prior to 1939. Much of Tomek’s work is available via the YouTube channel <>  which has two thousand subscribers and has been visited over three million times. Some of his films can be viewed at: <>.  Others:

Bialystok without the Jews: <>
An old man reminisces: <>.


Tomek was born 1958 in Olsztyn, Poland (his mother was born nearby in Vilnius, present day Lithuania; father born near Krakow).

For more information on this event please email


Conference on “Spirit Possession: Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives”

A Conference in Association with The George Sainsbury Foundation and Theological and Religious Studies, School of Humanities, University of Auckland, New Zealand, 6-8 July 2017.

The conference brings together thirteen international and New Zealand speakers who will address the subject of spirit possession from a range of disciplinary perspectives including  psychiatry, linguistics, anthropology, philosophy and law. The conference is also open to participants from interested public bodies such as government and public agencies and religious communities who find themselves dealing with claims of spirit possession in our increasingly plural society.

Details on Conference speakers, abstracts, registration and programme details can all be found on the Conference website at: <>.

Professor Douglas Pratt speaks on “Religious Fundamentalism and Extremism”

Monday 26 June 2017, at the Religious Diversity Centre, University of Otago House, 385 Queen Street,  Auckland, in the RDC’s classroom, 7:00-9:00pm.  This Seminar is open to the public with a $10 koha. For more information please contact the RDC at <>.

Prof. Douglas Pratt

Professor Pratt holds appointments as Adjunct Professor (Theology & Interreligious Studies) at the University of Bern, Switzerland, Professor in Religious Studies at the University of Waikato, and Adjunct Associate Professor (Research) in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University, Australia. A former President of the Australian Association for the Study of Religion (AASR) and the New Zealand Association for the Study of Religions (NZASR), Professor Pratt is the New Zealand Associate of the Australian-based UNESCO Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Relations – Asia Pacific. He is also an Associate of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP) at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. Doug’s areas of expertise are: Christianity, Islam, Christian-Muslim relations and dialogue, religious fundamentalism, religion and terrorism, religious diversity and interfaith engagement.


Interfaith Social Justice Theology Seminar

Wednesday 14 June 2017, Te Ara Hou, 100 Morrinsville Rd., Hamilton. This Seminar is jointly sponsored by the Anglican Action Centre for Social Justice, the Religious Diversity Centre (RDC), the Waikato Interfaith Council (WIFCO) and the University of Waikato Islamic Studies Group. This Seminar is free and open to the public.

While different religious and secular traditions hold unique and distinct doctrines, they also share some very powerful values. Social justice is one such value that can bring together people of all faiths and no faith to join forces and make the world a more just and humane place for this generation and generations to come. In this light Anglican Action’s Centre for Social Justice, in conjunction with the Religious Diversity Centre, the Waikato Interfaith Council, and the University of Waikato Islamic Studies Group, is holding a seminar on ‘The Theology of Social Justice’ aiming to bring experts from different religious backgrounds together to discuss the particular social teachings of a variety of faith and belief traditions, with the possibility of joining forces to take a joint action in promoting social justice both locally and globally. This first seminar (of an expected series of seminars) will focus on the particular theologies of social justice from among a variety of traditions and their implications for our time.

This seminar is free and open to the public.  Prior registration is not required although an RSVP would be appreciated for catering purposes. Morning Tea is being provided by Anglican Action. Times listed are approximate. To RSVP, or for additional information, please contact Dr Mortaza Shams at <>.


Methodist Interfaith Resource Day:

Saturday 13 May 2017, Hamilton East Methodist Church, Hamilton


RDC War and Peace Conversazione: Navies, Warships, Arms: War and Peace?

RDC Office, University of Otago House, 385 Queen Street, Auckland

14 November 2016

Bhai Verpal Singh introducing speakers
George Armstrong speaking


Religion, the Media and the (Un)making of Prejudice towards New Zealand’s Muslims

Auckland, 15 May 2016; Dunedin, 16 May 2016.

Dr John Shaver’s work is concerned with understanding how and why religions unite and divide groups of people, the dynamics of religious change in Oceania, and the effects of inequality on decision making and health. He is currently part of the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study. In addition to New Zealand, he has conducted research in the Czech Republic, Fiji, Mauritius and the United States