Faith, farming foster focus on wellbeing

Muslims, migrants and farmers.

Indonesian-born Reza and Silvia Abdul-Jabbar certainly represent a rare trifecta in New Zealand society.

The pair own a dairy farm in Mokotua, near Invercargill, which they balance with raising their five children and Mr Abdul-Jabbar’s duties as Imam of the Southland Mosque.

Standing on the back lawn at their farm on a cloudy southern day, they highlighted their concerns about mental health ahead of the election.

"If I put my hat as an Imam, I also want to see more on mental health being spoken about, more being done in a more holistic way," Mr Abdul-Jabbar said.

"I’m talking about going into the symptoms of it, going into families, going into the places where the youth are gathering and really finding out the underlying problems."

Mrs Abdul-Jabbar said addressing mental health concerns was especially important in a post-Covid-19 lockdown world.

"You’re starting to see a lot of people having mental issues after Covid-19," she said.

"We’re hoping if this mental issue is addressed, then the physical wellbeing will also be strengthened."

Silvia and Reza Abdul-Jabbar are leaders in the Muslim community in Southland, where they also...
Silvia and Reza Abdul-Jabbar are leaders in the Muslim community in Southland, where they also own a dairy farm. PHOTO: CRAIG BAXTER

The economic impact of the virus was expected to take its toll on people’s mental health as job losses and financial woes worsened, and it was an area the pair were also concerned about.

"Yes we’ve got Covid contained, but what are we going to do with our economy?" Mr Abdul-Jabbar said.

"We’re wanting to see a clear plan. We’ve borrowed a lot of money. We as farmers, we want to see us as the winning exporting nation again."

The idea that a disconnect between politicians in Wellington and rural Southland existed was "fair dinkum", he said.

"It’s a tough job being farmers, I think, and you get scrutinised a lot."

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