Helen Clark says NZ can provide model of religious tolerance

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says New Zealand can provide a model of religious tolerance for the rest of the world.

Miss Clark, who is head of the United Nations Development Programme, said this at the opening of the new Religious Diversity Centre in Wellington last week.

She is to be patron of the centre.

“Our world badly needs such models [as New Zealand]. On so many days now when I see the news headlines I often think how fortunate we are,” she said in Wellington.

She referred to “societies ripped apart by violent extremists with the extremists claiming so often to act in the name of the faith and yet prepared to violate every single principle of those faiths”.

“The world badly needs voices of reason and tolerance and those who will work to build dialogue and respect across faiths and beliefs.

“I do believe that New Zealand can show the way.”

Miss Clark said the role of faith-based actors had special significance in those parts of the world where governance structures were very weak and the state could not give access to basic services like education, justice, health and security.

She said the UNDP acknowledges the role of the faith actors in local communities.

Faith organisations often deliver critical services.

And faith leaders can mobilise grassroots support and earn the trust of vulnerable communities.

“They also have the ability to influence very significantly cultural norms and social cohesion,” Miss Clark said.

“What is said at the pulpit on Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays matters a lot to society.”


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