5th New Zealand National Hindu Conference emphasised Stronger Communities and Stronger New Zealand
Auckland: Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Rt. Hon Winston Peters highlighted the underlying values of the Hindu Dharma and how well the community is received and perceived in New Zealand. He was inaugurating the 5th New Zealand National Hindu Conference on May 4. Nearly 200 delegates representing 40 Hindu organisations, temples and associations from Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington and Dunedin participated in the conference.
Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Rt. Hon Winston Peters delivering the speech
Many youth delegates were born in New Zealand but majority of the older participants were immigrants from South Africa, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia, Fiji and European countries. The delegates included government agencies, Hindu community leaders, heads of organisations, temple executives, youth leaders, academicians and business people. Three delegates from India also attended the conference.
Conference Coordinator Ms Nitika Sharma stressed that although small in numbers, the Hindu community has been a contributing community in New Zealand in the fields of education, economy, health, etc. She said in terms of graduate, post-graduate and PhD education percentage the Hindus are almost twice educated compared to rest of New Zealand population. In paying higher taxes also the Hindus exceed the national average of New Zealand. She based her conclusions on 2013 NZ census especially with statistics on educational qualifications, income and occupations.
General Secretary of Hindu Council of New Zealand Prof Guna Magesan explained how the organisation was serving New Zealand over the past 20 years. He shared how national conferences, festivals, working with Maori community and Government agencies, have helped in strengthening and organising Hindu community, which resulted in creating visibility, acceptability and respectability for the Hindu community.
The inaugural session was followed by four panel discussions. In the first session “Working with Government Agencies”, five government agencies, including Human Rights Commission; Immigration; Education; NZ Police and Ministry of Social Development participated. Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, said everyone has the right to live with dignity. Human Rights need to be taken from being in books and in legislations and need to be applied to our living. The panel members also responded the questions from delegates. Some key issues discussed were Dignity in Death, Freedom of Speech, Education pathways and Immigration related issues. The session was moderated by Inspector Rakesh Naidoo from NZ Police.
In second panel discussion on the topic “Hindu Youth: Creating Future Leaders for New Zealand”, youth from various social, educational, spiritual and linguistic organisations discussed and deliberated about future pathways. Rachna Shah Apte, one of the panel members, said “our words are different, our tones are different, but we are all seeking the common goal of unity making stronger communities and stronger New Zealand.”
Many community leaders were surprised to see so many young people actively participating in the conference and also being in the organising committee. “Soon after the youth session, representatives from various Hindu temples and organisations approached me and asked me to spend time and engage with their Youth, so we can work together collectively. This shows the success of the youth session,” said Murali Krishna Magesan, chairperson of the Youth Session.
In the last two sessions, relating to Hindu organisations, temples and associations, the panellists showcased the work in the areas of social, cultural, educational, spiritual development and how they contribute to the wellbeing and support of the Hindu community and wider New Zealand society.