New Zealand Faith Leaders Embrace Unity
- Representatives from eight faith groups shared stories of the determination, dedication, and faith of pioneering religious leaders and members.
- Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker was a special guest at Sunday’s interfaith devotional at the LDS meetinghouse on Higgins Road in Hamilton.
“It takes good people of all faiths to make a city. When good people of good will get together, great things happen.”
—Elder David Thomson, Area Seventy
HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND
More than 700 leaders and members of several faiths joined together on Sunday, August 17, to remember the powerful influence religion has had, and continues to have, in shaping the values and character of the New Zealand city of Hamilton.
Representatives from eight faith groups shared stories of the determination, dedication, and faith of pioneering religious leaders and members as they worked to establish their churches and faith communities in a new city.
“It takes good people of all faiths to make a city,” said Elder David Thomson, an Area Seventy.
“When good people of good will get together, great things happen.”
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker was a special guest at Sunday’s interfaith devotional at the LDS meetinghouse on Higgins Road in Hamilton.
“Faith, religion, and culture are a very important part of life, and like most places in New Zealand, Hamilton started with Christianity as its only religion. But as we’ve grown we’ve incorporated many different faiths that are here tonight to join together in worship and celebration,” she said.
“This event is a celebration of all things past and all things we do together to create a better future. Hamilton has been shaped by the pioneering spirit of its people and the determination to see our place flourish.”
An example of people uniting for a common purpose was given as Catholic cancer survivor Noah Lockett-Turton—head boy at St. John’s College—recounted his story of faith, love, and unity.
“The faith-based community supported me,” he said. “I was prayed for by thousands of people every single day, … and to be honest, that’s what kept me going. That support was what got me through my cancer journey. I thank God every day; He has given me a great life even though I have had cancer.”
A Muslim father and daughter, Dr. Anis Rahman and Anjum Rahman, shared another story of community unity and support. After their mosque was gutted by fire shortly after its construction, supporters from the community reached out in love and compassion to help them rebuild their sacred place of worship.
Anglican Reverend Andrew McKean echoed these sentiments: “If you want to know what the value of care and compassion, of inclusion and justice look like in action, you don’t have far to go in Hamilton.”
Barry Cope, a representative of the Buddhist community, urged all in attendance to be loving and kind to oneself, one’s family, the community, and the world.
Badi Norozi-Iranzad, a Baha’i representative, said their faith community teaches youth to recognize the constructive and destructive forces in society and to channel their energies toward becoming agents of positive change.
Todd Nachowitz, representing the Jewish faith, said, “Whether seeking a better life or fleeing for our lives, Jewish migrants have left for Hamilton a passion for education, a devotion to family and our communal survival, and a strong social conscience.”
Reverend Dr. Susan Thompson described Hamilton Methodists as “an engaged and involved people of God.”
“We take seriously the words of our founder, John Wesley, who said, ‘Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.’”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Hamilton New Zealand Visitors’ Center director, and one of the organizers of the event, Elder Ronald K. Hawkins, recognized the fundamental role of the religious community in shaping the standards and values of Hamilton.
“We remember the events and people who have given lengthy and admirable service in the religious community, as well as the critical roles of the religious values they taught,” he said.
Celeste Rakena, a Latter-day Saint youth representative on the Waikato Interfaith Council, said, “As the younger generation, we are very grateful for those who have given us such a beautiful city and a rich heritage.
“We recognize our responsibility to future generations to maintain those standards that will provide similar blessings to them. The challenges will certainly differ from those of the past, but the standards and values will guide us to the right solutions.”
In concluding remarks, Elder Thomson thanked the youth who provided music throughout the event.
“I feel inspired every time I hear this beautiful choir sing,” he said. “And tonight, isn’t it wonderful we’ve had all this music from young people? They are the future of our city. They are the future of Hamilton. They are the future of our faith.”
He continued, “Regardless of our faith or our beliefs—we have a God, He is our Father, we are His children. And as a family, we are all brothers and sisters.”