Thursday, 11 April 2013

change at the council

a bit of a change happened in the proceedings of hamilton city council today.  for the first time in the city's history, the opening prayer was delivered by a group that wasn't christian.

this change has been a long time coming, and has been the work of councillor daphne bell - someone for whom i have a huge amount of respect.  daphne has long been a champion of diversity, and has had strong connections with the various ethnic communities in hamilton from well before she became a councillor.  it was also as a result of her lobbying that the position of ethnic development advisor was established by the hamilton city council (a role most ably filled by philip yeung for many years).

she retires this term, as she won't be seeking re-election, and i believe that this is a fitting legacy to remind us all of the various contributions she has made & no doubt will continue to make in years to come.

as a result of daphne's work behind the scenes, hamilton city council has now developed the practice of having prayers said by members of a different religious community each time they meet.  she has liaised with the waikato interfaith council to arrange people to offer prayers, and here's a video of the prayer said this morning by the jewish community:

i'd also like to include part of the press release by the waikato interfaith council:

We would like to extend our vote of appreciation to Her Worship the Mayor Judy Hardaker, Hamilton City Councillor Daphne Bell (who has championed the issue of interfaith prayers), and all Hamilton City Council members for including both majority and minority religions in the opening of future Council meetings. This positive action sends an enthusiastic message of inclusion to all members of society and reflects the changing demographics of our city. We sincerely hope that our prayers, led by a more representative selection of faith leaders, may help guide and encourage our Mayor and City Councillors in fulfilling the obligations for which they have been elected. WIFCO believes that this is a significant milestone in local governance that embraces all members of Waikato’s multicultural and multireligious communities. We hope that other Councils throughout New Zealand undertake such initiatives.

there is, of course, one thing lacking. amongst the list of faith communities chosen to open the sessions, there is no-one from the atheist/humanist community.  it's something i think that WIFCO is open to, and i think it's important that someone from that community has the opportunity to offer a reflection in place of a prayer, something from their own moral or ethical beliefs that would inspire the council as they start their day.  i'm really hoping that happens either later this year or next year.

but this morning was at least a start, a recognition that our community here is indeed woven of many threads (as naomi mentioned in her speech yesterday), each one of which enhances our city.

i'd also like to mention briefly the person who mailed me a handwritten letter today about my blog, which was very inspiring and moving.  i want to thank you here for taking the trouble to find me out and write your thoughts, and to let you know that you really have made my day!  i hope to send you a response in kind in the coming days.


Deborah said...

Hmmm.... an atheist reflection. As an atheist, I would simply ask for .... nothing.

stargazer said...

nothing as in you wouldn't want any prayers at the start of council meetings? or nothing as in you wouldn't, as an atheist, want to be included in the list of people opening the meeting, but happy for other faiths to be doing it?

Deborah said...

Nothing, as in if there was to be an atheist reflection, for my part, it would consist in doing... nothing.

Deborah said...

Also, just to be clear, I'm happy for various faiths to be represented in opening the meeting. It's just that when atheists open the meeting, the meeting should just start.