New Zealanders religiously tolerant

Recently a journalist named Karl du Fresne opined a piece lauding the fact that New Zealand seems to be a religiously tolerant place.

As far as religion concerns this non-religious New Zealand male, I don’t care what you believe in – Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, aliens or U.F.O.’s, Scientology. Just do not ram it down my throat or that of anyone else. Don’t go knocking on peoples doors with 5 year old kids who should be playing with their mates, in tow. Don’t be sullen and angry as a couple of gentlemen from the Church of the Seven Day Adventists were when I sent them packing one time once I realised what they were doing at my door.

I know people of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and the Catholic faith’s. Never has the faith of any of them caused me or anyone I know any problems. Never have they tried suggesting an agenda they support should be somehow adopted by New Zealand. Indeed, I can only remember one time when anyone told me I would be going to hell, when organising collectors for a charity fundraiser – only after a two minute spiel from another family member about sin and salvation, was I able to speak to the collector.

There is no place for incitement of fear to achieve an agenda. There is no place for the persecution of one religion or another. New Zealand law understands and respects this. To be sure there are occasionally incidents where a disgruntled individual tries to stir hatred by leaving religiously offensive matter at a particular religious site – occasionally swastika’s get scrawled over Jewish graves or inflammatory leaflets might be delivered inciting hatred against Muslims. The Police generally take these issues fairly seriously.

The biggest danger is ignorance. Reading the commentary by people some days on social media makes my head hurt when I see generalising comments of a highly derogatory nature, such as Muslims being goat humpers who want the 72 virgins, or Jews being linked to perceived robbery vis-a-vis the banking system.

I accept that a significant part of why New Zealand is so peaceful religiously is due to our relatively minor involvement on the world stage. Our reluctance to become involved in overseas conflicts without a United Nations mandate has earned the respect of many nations. So too, has the level of transparency we enjoy from our elected officials. For anyone of a particular faith, the respect and tolerance of individuals right and ability to practice their faith peacefully will be welcomed.

So, it is on that note I welcome this report. It is part of what makes New Zealand a great place to live. Let us keep it that way, because when we start on the path of fear and hate, it is all down hill.

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