At our March 2018 AGM, the Religious Diversity Trust approved the addition of two new Trust Board members representing both the Hindu and Buddhist communities. The full Board of Trustees of the Religious Diversity Centre Trust are:

Jocelyn Armstrong, Chair, Religious Diversity Trust; multifaith educator

Jocelyn Armstrong, a Christian laywoman, has had a long and varied involvement in the Anglican Church. She has taken leadership in the ecumenical and the interfaith movements at national, regional (Asia) and international levels. On retirement from teaching Religious Studies at secondary school level, she authored the textbook ‘Discovering Diversity’, a resource for the Social Studies curriculum that introduces the students to religion and the world religions. She is the current vice president of the Auckland Interfaith Council and is the Chair of the Religious Diversity Centre Trust.

Dr Jenny Te Pā Daniel, Public Theologian, Educational consultant

Former Ahorangi (Dean) of Te Rau Kahikatea, St Johns College, Auckland; Educational Consultant, internationally experienced lay Anglican leader in ecumenical theological education, peace and justice activism, advocacy for women’s rights and the human rights of LGTB people.

Professor Paul Morris, Religious Studies, Victoria University of Wellington

Paul Morris is a specialist scholar in the field of contemporary world religions. He teaches an introductory paper, What is religion? Identity, Experience and Practice, and papers on Judaism; death; arguing about religion; and a new course, Evil and Salvation, exploring notions of sin, redemption, good and evil in different religious traditions and in the modern non-religious movement. His publications explore Jewish religious thought, religious change in the Pacific; religious diversity, religion in New Zealand, religion and politics in the contemporary world, and religion and cosmopolitanism.

Paul studied Religious Studies at Victoria University of Wellington under Professor Lloyd Geering, and at Lancaster University where he completed a PhD supervised by Professor Ninian Smart. He taught at Lancaster during the 1980s and has held visiting positions, including Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations, Birmingham; Visiting Professor of Humanities, University of Queensland; and Visiting Professor of Religion, Boston University. Professor Morris is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association for the History of Religions, and on the editorial/advisory boards of Numen, Journal of Beliefs and Values, Journal of Implicit Religion, Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies and the Numen Brill Studies in Religion series.

• Professor Edwina Pio, University Director of Diversity, Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

Edwina is University Director of Diversity at the Auckland University of Technology, in a position annexed to her substantive role as professor in the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law and leader of the research group Immigration & Inclusion. She is New Zealand’s first Professor of Diversity, a Fulbright alumna, recipient of a Duke of Edinburgh fellowship and widely published in top ranking journals such as British Journal of Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Gender Work & Organization, Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Academy of Management Learning & Education and Journal of Management Inquiry. Her accolades include Visiting Professor at Boston College, USA; research fellowship at Jonkoping International Business School, Sweden; Visiting Academic at Cambridge University, UK; Fellow of the New Zealand India Research Institute, New Zealand and Co-Director of the Global Centre for Equality and Human Rights, UK. Edwina is a thoughtful leader and knowledgeable interpreter in the area of diversity in business, communities and education and her passion for interdisciplinary scholarship encompass the intersections of work, ethnicity, religion and pedagogy. In 2008 her book Sari: Indian women at work in New Zealand was released by Rt. Hon. John Key, former Prime Minister of New Zealand. In 2010 her book Longing & Belonging was released at Te Papa Wellington on Race Relations Day by the Office of Ethnic Communities and the Human Rights Commission. In 2014 her book Work & Worship was released by the Race Relations Commissioner. Picking up difficult contemporary issues, and unravelling them in a way that is palatable for an eclectic audience, Edwina believes and acts with an innate sense of social justice, and a desire to live in harmony and in-tune with the universe.

Professor Douglas Pratt, Studies in Religion, University of Waikato

Professor Pratt holds appointments as Adjunct Professor (Theology & Interreligious Studies) at the University of Bern, Switzerland, 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.

Professor Pratt was Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Bern, Switzerland, for the Spring semester (February–June) 2011 and previously, during the Spring semester of 2010 (January–May), he was in the United States as a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies, where he taught a course on religious extremism in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, Washington, DC. He has undertaken research and has taught at other major overseas universities including a term in 2004 as Visiting Lecturer in Christian–Muslim Relations at the University of Birmingham, UK and, for the academic year 2005-06, Honorary Research Fellow at Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, and guest lecturer for the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oxford. He has taught at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and has been a visiting scholar at the International Islamic University, Malaysia, and the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam, Rome. He has also previously taught in an honorary or visiting capacity for the theology programme of the University of Auckland.

Professor Pratt is a regular visitor to Australia presenting at conferences and seminars and giving guest lectures. With his links to the Global Terrorism Research Centre (GTReC) and the Centre for Islam in the Modern World at Monash University, he has been a consultant on religious fundamentalism and extremism to the Australian Federal Government and a guest presenter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and FBI Leadership in Counter-Terrorism – Pacific program.

Doug’s areas of expertise are: Christianity, Islam, Christian-Muslim relations and dialogue, religious fundamentalism, religion and terrorism, religious diversity and interfaith engagement.

Selva Ramasami, Wellington Hindu Community

Selva Ramasami is a grass roots community volunteer in the Wellington region. He has been associated with several organisations promoting dharma, culture and language. His interest in interfaith activities allowed him the opportunity to be a New Zealand delegate to the 6th Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue in Semarang, Indonesia in 2012. Selva brings his legal, policy and finance experience to his community work particularly for the Wellington Hindu Community. Through his engagement with the diverse religious and cultural communities, Selva understands the challenges for social cohesion. He has been regularly called upon to contribute to discussions on the challenges and opportunities for enhancing the social cohesion and well-being of the diverse communities in Aotearoa.

Bhai Verpal Singh, Chair, Sikh Centre, Broadcaster, Researcher, Writer

Verpal Singh is the Founder Chairman of the New Zealand Sikh Centre, a not-for-profit organisation engaged in promoting greater interaction between Sikhs and the wider New Zealand community. He is a writer and publisher. Through the Sikh Centre, he has been involved in running annual competitions in the field of Painting, Short Story Writing, and traditional Punjabi embroidery art of Phulkari. He is an active participant in ongoing interfaith dialogue in New Zealand, and a keen student of history, especially religious history.

Ricky Waters, Coordinator of multifaith chaplaincies at Unitec, Manukau Institutes of Technology and Massey University

Ricky was born and raised in Wanganui, where he worked and then later trained as a Primary Teacher. He then taught in Te Anau, Darfield, and Franz Joseph Glacier. Ricky also worked with the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship (TSCF) facilitating Christian groups on campuses in Palmerston North and Wellington, training in personal & spiritual development and leadership. He subsequently served for three years as National Youth Officer for the Bible Society in NZ, and then worked in Fiji for six years developing Pacific Students for Christ (PSFC) on the Tertiary campuses in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomons, Tonga, Western Samoa. In 1996, his family returned to New Zealand and Ricky worked as Regional Team Leader for TSCF in Auckland overseeing and training the Staff Team and working with students.

Currently Ricky is employed as the coordinating Chaplain at Manukau Institute of Technology, UNITEC Institute of Technology and Massey University. He is actively involved in the Presbyterian Church, interfaith dialogue, spiritual direction, tutoring in Maths, and parenting in his spare time. He enjoys reading, gardening, house maintenance, preaching, and encouraging. Ricky also currently serves as the RDC Trust Treasurer.

• Venerable Amala Wrightson, Sensei , Spiritual Director of the Auckland Zen Centre, and Chair of the New Zealand Buddhist Council

Amala Wrightson was born in Auckland in 1958, and grew up regularly attending St Paul’s Anglican Church. At the same time she was the only non-Catholic child at her kindergarten and primary school, St Joseph’s of Cluny. This gave her an early sense that there was more than one way to practice religion. Through the 1980s she went to Auckland University part-time and worked in various experimental music and theatre groups (The Plague, Humanimals, Inside Information) with her husband Richard von Sturmer. In 1989, shortly after completing an M.A. in Italian, she began Zen training at the Rochester Zen Center, in upstate New York. She was ordained a Zen priest in 1999, and from 1996 to 2003 she was the Center’s Head of Zendo ( in charge of training) working closely with her teacher Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede. In late 2003 Amala returned to resettle in New Zealand and founded the Auckland Zen Centre with her husband Richard. Since then she has dedicated her time to offering authentic Zen practice and training in Auckland. She was given formal permission to teach by Roshi Kjolhede in 2004, and was sanctioned as a full Dharma heir in 2012. She continues to spend some time each year at the Rochester Zen Center and is a member of the American Zen Teachers’ Association (AZTA). In 2008 she co-founded the New Zealand Buddhist Council (NZBC) as a vehicle for Buddhist organisations in Aotearoa to help each other with common issues. She was part of the AUT University’s multifaith chaplaincy team for 10 years, and now helps to train Buddhist Chaplains through the NZBC’s Chaplaincy Course, in collaboration with Amitabha Hospice. She was a member of the New Zealand delegation to two Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue meetings, in Waitangi (2007) and Phnom Penh (2008), and has represented New Zealand at the General Assembly Meeting of the International Buddhist Confederation.

Dr Zain Imtiaz Ali, Honorary Research Fellow, Theology & Religious Studies, University of Auckland

Dr Zain Ali is currently an honorary research fellow in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Auckland. Dr Ali also teaches an introductory paper on Islam, entitled Islam in the Contemporary World. His areas of interest include Philosophy of Religion, Islamic Philosophy, Sufism and interfaith dialogue. He is the author of Faith, Philosophy and the Reflective Muslim. Dr Ali is a father of three and has lived in Auckland for the better part of 30 years.

page last updated 4 October 2018