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  New Zealand PM inaugurates First NZ Hindu Conference  

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New Zealand Hindu Conference, NZ PM opens Hinduism

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By: Ganesh Sovani
June 10, 2007
iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.


(The author is an Advocate at the Bombay High Court)

Hon. Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, inaugurated the 1st New Zealand Hindu Conference, a historic event for the Hindu community in New Zealand, by lighting the lamp for the auspicious beginning of the conference on 12 May 2007 at the Hindu Heritage Centre, Auckland.
The theme of the 1st New Zealand Hindu Conference was "The contribution of Hindu community to the national life of New Zealand". It covered the economic, health, environmental, social and cultural aspects.

NZ Herald about the Hindu culture and the Society:

Twice a week, the 52 pupils at Mangere"s new Global Indian International School sing two national anthems in three languages.

First, they sing God Defend New Zealand in Maori and English, then Jana Gana Mana (The Minds of the People), the Indian national anthem. It"s the kind of accommodation to three cultures that New Zealand"s 65,000 Hindus have to make every day. About 150 of them are meeting at Mangere this weekend in what is billed as the first New Zealand Hindu conference to discuss how to sustain their culture in their new land

The article is available at: Hindu centre embraces two cultures

The keynote address was presented by Dr Guna Magesan, general secretary, Hindu Council of New Zealand Inc and a senior scientist with NZ government research organization. In his presentation, he highlighted the fact (based on NZ census 2006) that Hindu community is the second largest faith-based community in New Zealand and it grew by 62% in the last 5 years. He also highlighted the Hindu contribution in health, economic, education, social and cultural aspects.

Dr Magesan mentioned how Hindu doctors and nurses are providing services by working for the various health boards and also running successful private hospitals, thereby fulfilling the shortage of skills in the health sector. In terms of economics, he explained how the Hindu migrants moved from mini business (corner dairy shops) to mega projects in matter of few decades. In education, he highlighted that the number of graduates, post graduates and doctoral degree holders in Hindu community is at least 3 times more when compared to total NZ population, in percentage scale. In social and cultural aspects, Dr Magesan showed evidences of strengthening bonds between Hindus and Maori community, and also how Hindus have integrated with the New Zealand society while maintaining the Hindu identity intact. He pointed out that all these contributions are not well recognized by the government. The Prime Minister acknowledged the Hindu contribution to the national life of New Zealand in her special address to the audience. She thanked the conference organizers for organizing the historic conference and was impressed by the vision and mission statements of the organization.

Sir Barry Curtis, the Mayor of Manukau city, mentioned that Manukau is the Hindu capital of New Zealand since a large number of Hindus live in the Manukau county. Mr Haare Williams, the kaumatua (a Maori elder) and Tangata Whenua (son of the soil), blessed the occasion with a Maori traditional prayer along with Swami Vigyananand of World Hindu Council who blessed with the Hindu prayer. Haare Williams was impressed by the welcome by the Hindu community and told the audience that he felt being at home, and wanted to participate in future conferences.

This conference also provided a platform for all the Hindu organizations and like-minded groups to showcase their contributions to the New Zealand society. There were 7 paper presentation sessions and 3 workshops. The workshops focused on issues which were common to all Hindu organizations, and also to the wider community, such as Health and wellbeing , Education and culture and Social beliefs and family .
Although this conference was mainly for the New Zealand community, presence of a number of visitors from overseas has encouraged the conference organizers to go worldwide next year. Shri Aruneshwar Gupta, President of Hindu Heritage Foundation, Shri Ravi Kumar, joint coordinator Sewa International, Shri Vijay Singhal, Secretary of Hindu Council of Australia and Swami Sanyuktanand from Fiji Sevashram Sangha also participated and blessed the conference.

There were number of presentations given by highly qualified research scholars, university lecturers of both Hindu and non-Hindu origin. Discussions following the presentations and during the workshops were highly appreciated by the audience, and the participants suggested that the conference organized need to provide more time for such discussions in the future conferences. A session on Working with Government Agencies was an instant hit among the audience and we believe that this would become a regular feature in our future conferences. Hindu Council of New Zealand Inc. have identified key issues of the Hindu community and have decided to launch the Hindu Social Services Charitable Trust to work with the community and the government agencies to find solutions to those burning social issues.

The conference organizers were overwhelmed by the response that they received, and it appeared that the conference had caught the imagination of the people. There was an active participation from various government agencies, professionals, university staff, business leaders, Maori elders, and community and youth leaders.

Following the success of this conference, and to satisfy the expectations of the audience, next year s conference was announced to be held from 16 to 18 May 2008 with the theme Sustaining New Zealand Communities with Yoga, Meditation and Ayurveda .

Source: Release by Hindu Council of New Zealand Inc, New Zealand

Ganesh Sovani

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New Zealand Hindu Conference, NZ PM opens Hinduism

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