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Back to listFeb 13, 2008

Interfaith Roundtable in New Zealand

On February 13, 2008, SGI-New Zealand cohosted an international interfaith roundtable forum in Wellington entitled "The Role of Interfaith Dialogue in Building Bridges Towards Peace and Security." Hiro Sakurai, SGI's representative to the United Nations in New York, was a guest panelist.

From left to right: Mr. Sakurai, Prof. Paul Morris, Rehanna Ali, Hon. Russell Marshall and Ghazala Anwar

Chaired by Professor Paul Morris, head of Religious Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, the panel also included Mervin Singham, director of the Office of Ethnic Affairs; Rehanna Ali, regional representative of the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand; Ghazala Anwar, representative of the Peace Foundation; and the Honorable Russell Marshall, former cabinet minister and president of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs.

Prime Minister Helen Clark sent a representative to the forum with a message supporting efforts toward promoting international interfaith dialogue.

Over 60 people attended, including representatives from the embassies of the U.S.A., U.K., Russia, Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and Spain, together with civil society representatives, academics, government officials, interfaith leaders and university students.

Among the issues raised at the forum were the challenges of conducting dialogue amongst secular government agencies and the interfaith community at the international and local level. Mr. Sakurai introduced his experience, as chair of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN between 2003 and 2007, in the development of the Tripartite Forum on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, launched in 2006 and involving 50 governments, 15 UN system organizations and the committee of faith-based NGOs, as a forum for interfaith discussion at the UN headquarters. He also emphasized the need to humanize religion as proposed by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda in his 2008 annual peace proposal.

Other panelists reported on New Zealand's participation at the Alliance of Civilization meeting in Spain in January 2008, the government's related plan of action and regional efforts toward interfaith cooperation.

The event was cosponsored by Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs.

[Adapted from a report from SGI UN Liaison Officer Hiro Sakurai in New York; photo courtesy of Hiro Sakurai]