Hindu Community in New Zealand was invited, for the first time, to participate in the “He Whenua Taurikura – New Zealand Hui on Countering Terrorism and Extreme Violence”. This two-day conference was organised by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and was held in Auckland on 31 October and 1 November 2022. This second conference was attended by senior officials from various Government Agencies, academics, and diverse community representatives.
The Hindu Community was represented by Dr Guna Magesan JP, President of Hindu Council of New Zealand; Selva Ramasami, Government Engagement Advisor, Hindu Organizations, Temples and Associations (HOTA) Forum; Dr Puspha Wood ONZM and Ranjna Patel ONZM. The community representatives felt that the Hindu Youth must also have been invited and included in the discussion. This was raised with various Government officials who acknowledged the gap.
He Whenua Taurikura means a country at peace. The Hui participants were formally welcomed by the host, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei at a pōwhiri ceremony on the morning of Monday October 31.
There were several sessions and many important discussions and opportunity to establish or renew contacts across our diverse communities and agencies.
Reiterating the importance of this Korero, it was good to see the Prime Minister of New Zealand and three other Ministers participating in the conference in person. On the second day, in her keynote address, Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern outlined the security threats to New Zealand and called for a bespoke response to threats of terrorism and violent extremism. She encouraged community-based “solutions for people by people”.
“As the President of a community organisation representing the second largest faith group in New Zealand, I attended the conference, mainly to share my thoughts and observations,” said Dr Guna Magesan, President of Hindu Council of New Zealand.
The conference gave an opportunity for Hindu representatives to meet and discuss with many senior officials of various Government agencies such as National Security Group, National Intelligence Agency, NZ Police, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministry of Ethnic Communities, and community representatives. Recent attacks on Hindu Temples in Auckland were brought to the attention of the agencies. We are assured that New Zealand Police will be doing all they can to find the perpetrators, and to be able to assure our community as to its safety and security.
We have also been directed to The Crowded Places initiative led by the community group and supported by the NZ Police and other agencies. The New Zealand Government has developed Protecting Our Crowded Places including places of worships from attack. The strategy intends to preserve the public’s use and enjoyment of crowded places, while ensuring that their safety has been considered. Following recent attacks on Hindu Temples, Hindu Community through Hindu Council of New Zealand and HOTA Forum will be contributing to the discussions. As discussions are underway, Hindu community will be soon represented in The Crowded Places initiative.
Selva Ramasami, Government Engagement Advisor, HOTA Forum was interviewed by Radio New Zealand regarding the Hui. He said, “Hate is universal, and we hope the government will encompass their work to represent the various diverse communities in New Zealand.”
He mentioned that he was heartened by the notion of solutions by society, for society raised by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “We have an important role to play in this strategy to build resilience of the community for a more inclusive and diverse society. We are more than willing to be part of that process.”
Ramasami said hate did not discriminate and targeted all religious and ethnic groups. He is keen to see the Hindu community actively participate in the government programmes such as the Crowed Places Strategy.
Hindu community has also been invited to participate in the public submission on National Security: Long Term insights, which ends on November 22, 2022.
Since many speakers spoke on social cohesion, Dr Guna Magesan encouraged the Government officials to engage Hindu youth in future conferences because the Hindu youth have been contributing a lot in social cohesion in Aotearoa New Zealand. As an example, he shared a newspaper article “Dharma Festival carves a new pathway to social cohesion in Aotearoa”. DharmaFest was organised by the Hindu youth. Many officials appreciated the contribution from the Hindu youth for social cohesion.
The Hindu representatives also encouraged the government officials to involve Hindu Youth and Hindu Women in policy work to build a resilient community. Following positive responses from most of the senior officials/ managers/ policy advisors of the New Zealand government, the Hindu representatives are hoping there will be an increased engagement with the Hindu Community.
For more information, please contact: Selva Ramasami (0211788318)