Tolerance New Zealand's real religion

White nationalists, Islamophobes and other hate groups openly extol a clear goal - to separate ''them'' from ''us''. In the wake of Friday's terrorist attack, it seems prudent to confront the myth some believe in: that when it comes to religion in this country, there has never been an ''us''.

Evidence indicates the first humans to set foot in Aotearoa were Eastern Polynesian settlers some 800 years ago who brought religious beliefs with them.

Those beliefs centred around the idea that, through genealogy, all things were connected - hills, rivers, animals, plants - to the Maori themselves. Yet within the several hundred years Maori lived here before European settlement, the way those beliefs were expressed was already evolving and diverging.

Europeans arrived with a variety of takes on monotheism. Catholicism and Protestantism were the major players, but there were others. Within a few decades of the Treaty of Waitangi, the discovery of gold thrust this country on to the international stage. People, including a significant Chinese population, swarmed from around the world to what was now called New Zealand, bringing with them their own religions. Many stayed once the gold had gone.

In the north of the country, digging for Kauri gum became a massive industry with a large portion of workers hailing from Eastern and Central Europe. Their beliefs differed slightly from the Western Europeans and they held on to those beliefs, traditions, and religions.

The State, of course, was an extension of the British Crown and, as such, it is easy to look back at the last hundred or so years of New Zealand history and conclude we are, and have been, a Christian country.

But the beliefs of those who have settled here, who have journeyed to one of the most far-flung land masses on Earth and made a life for themselves, are far more varied than that. In reality, we have never been a solely Christian country. Since the arrival of Europeans, we have been a nation of multiple religions.

A major fallacy in the argument of those wanting New Zealand to ''remain'' or ''return'' to being as culturally, ethnically or religiously ''pure'' as it always was is that New Zealand has never been mono-ethnic, mono-religious or mono-cultural. And it never will. Because our national genealogy is not one of ''purity''.

We are a port which has sheltered all sailors. We are a lodging house which has welcomed all travellers. That is what New Zealand is. It's what we've always been.

Islam is an ancient religion, born from the same part of the world Christianity was, just a few hundred years later. It is widely practised around the world and has as much right to be considered ''normal'' in New Zealand as any other religion does.

Yes, there are radical arms of Islam. There are radical arms of Christianity, too. And of football fans, environmentalists and many more groups besides. It takes an appalling negligence of consideration to believe only the radical arms of a large group of people define that group.

It is absurd for any New Zealanders to believe Islam has less right to be practised freely, safely and given respect in this country than other religions. Muslim New Zealanders are simply New Zealanders who practise a religion. Religions, while culpable for many unpleasant aspects of history, also bring meaning, stability, guidance and context to billions of people.

We are not a Christian country, despite being a country of many Christians. We are not a religious country, though we are a country of many religions.

In fact, if there was to be any ''religion'' that defined New Zealand, it should be a religious devotion to inclusivity, tolerance and openness. Let that be the New Zealand religion and, in our pursuit of it, let's ensure Muslim New Zealanders know, feel and trust they are, now and forever, simply Kiwis.

Comments

There are partisans, then there are agitators, the craftiest of which talk of War. These are promoters of War, from whichever 'side' they support.

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