Thursday, 6 March 2008

prayer time

thought this was an interesting press release calling for a change to the parliamentary prayer. i wonder if it will be picked up by the mainstream media. it would certainly have made the headlines if the call had come from javed khan (president of the federation of islamic associations of nz). then there would have been the necessary responses from bishop tamaki & glyn carpenter about the threat to nz's christian heritage, minorities trying to take over the country etc etc. but this statement comes from a hindu leader, so let's see what happens.

i've never heard of rajan zed, and don't know which part of the country he's a leader in nor which branch of hinduism he leads. but good on him for speaking out. apparently a survey of MPs found that "84 per cent of respondents wanted the status quo". it would be interesting to know how many didn't respond to the survey. no doubt many MPs would just not want to take the flak that changing the prayer would involve.

personally i'm pretty neutral about the wording. a change of about 7 or 8 words would make it a lot more inclusive. but it's hardly worth the hassle. trying to change the wording would be much like trying to change the nz flag - many people want a change but no one can agree on what the changed version should look like.

nice to see that keith ng has joined the herald (hat tip: no right turn) and is talking sense - as he always does, of course (see his blog). that crime is actually going down is borne out by research done at the university of auckland. there was also this in the house today from hon annette king:

Violent crime in New Zealand, as in other countries, has been increasing year on year for a number of years. Since 1999-2000 the increase in recorded violent offences per head of population has been around 2.7 percent on average each year. However, the rate of the most violent offence of murder has remained relatively constant, although I do note that in 2006 there were 49 murders, and this compares very favourably with 1997 when there were 66 murders. A large driver of recorded violence has been the increased recording of domestic violent offences. For example, between 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 domestic violent offences increased by 11.2 percent while non-domestic violent offences increased by 0.6 percent.

with the television campaign against domestic violence and the heightened awareness caused by the repeal of s 59, it's highly likely there will be an increase in reported crime in this area. that's the whole point of the campaign after all - to get people to report violent crime. but i'm sure we'll have to hear about another "crime wave" when the statistics come in.


Ken said...

There is a bigger issue here in that 32% of New Zealand's population do not adhere to a religion (2006 census). A more recent NMR survey suggest that when the question is framed in terms of belief in a god less than 50% hold that belief.

So the parliamentary prayer offends more than just Muslims, Hindus, etc. It's going to take a lot more than changing "about 7 or 8 words" to make such a formality truly inclusive. To start with it just shouldn't be a prayer.

Unfortunately, in this area the opinions of non-theists are always ignored (e.g. The National Statement on Religious Diversity).

As a non-theist I am offended by the imposition of these prayers (and I must say in my experience this has always been imposed by Christians -none of the other religions).

My MP (National - Ham East) told me that the majority of MPs would reject the parliamentary prayer if given a free vote. Unfortunately there is the fear of a highly organised opposition. He believes that the prayer will eventually be abandon as part of a more extensive reform to remove a lot of outdated traditional aspects - possibly if (when) we become a republic.

stargazer said...

you're right ken. my position of being reasonably comfortable with the current version is because i do believe in "Almighty God", and Jesus is one of the prophets we Muslims also believe in. and i do have some sympathy with the view that nz has a christian heritage, and the prayer reflects that heritage.

the issue then is whether the prayer should continue to reflect history, or whether it should reflect the nz of today. my preference would be for the latter, but i see the practical difficulties in trying to get an acceptable wording. there's also the problem that the 32% you speak of is largely a very silent majority. they don't get enthused about issues such as this, so there isn't the pressure for change that's required for a move such as this. until you rouse the masses, that "highly organised opposition" will always win the day.