The Religious Diversity Centre’s Youth Leadership Council Project leaders are inviting applications for Ngā Rangatahi o Māramatanga, the Youth Leadership Council.
This is open to New Zealand residents aged 16-35 who are passionate about the work of building understanding and acceptance of religious diversity throughout our society. They can be of any religious affiliation (including atheist/agnostic) and should be available for 1.5 hours every six weeks, over a two-year tenure. RDC will be providing induction and training. You do not need to have been previously involved in the RDC or the workshops in order to apply.
See the recruitment poster below, or click here for more information! Application deadline has been extended until 18th October 2021!
A photo from an enjoyable contemplative workshop last night. The topic was ‘Faces of God: Looking beyond the White Male Jesus.’
We had a total of 11 stations set up around Holy Trinity Cathedral, each depicting images of Christ from various cultural contexts. Towards the end of the workshop, we engaged in discussion around these artworks and how they challenge our often deeply and subconsciously held perceptions of God (and by extension, ourselves and others as bearers of God’s image). We ended with night prayer.
Thanks to all for a wonderful evening!
Get in touch with us here or on Facebook if you’d like to be involved in our next SCM Auckland event.
SCM Canterbury’s Jessie Robinson reflects on her trip to SELF in Cambodia late last year.
From the 24th of October until the 5th of November, I had the privilege to be in Siem Reap, Cambodia for WSCF’s School for Ecumenical Leadership Formation (SELF) programme. Identity, Diversity and Dialogue were the key themes of the programme. Representatives from all around the Asia – Pacific region were brought together to participate in SELF. We were based at a reflection centre so as such, each day we were encouraged to reflect on parts of the programme that spoke to us. The following is what really stood out to me.
The Bishop of Sri Lanka was amongst the speakers and he spoke very well on the subjects of contemporary issues and challenges, and also on the subject of the LGBT+ Community. We have multiple identities. Bishop encouraged us to dialogue. Discuss, to dig deep and not accept things at a superficial level. The group was spoken to, to have courage to be non-conformist. To practice sensitive leadership by listening and keeping an ear to the ground. The solution to challenges should come from the people within which will lead to unity and truth being established.
Through dialogue we change. Our faith becomes deeper. A tool that we were shown to practice reflection is that of zoegraphy. It is centred in our personal life. It is the story of one’s life in relation to society. In zoegraphy we are encouraged to have an open imagination and to ultimately serve God. If we are able to dialogue with others about commonalities in our own lives, this is a way to solve challenges in society. The World can be made peaceful if we bring a vision of common peace.
Talking to other representatives from around Asia – Pacific was a fantastic way to share experiences from our own contexts. The programme provided a new context to practice dialogue in and enabled myself and the other participants to gain more insight into the contemporary issues and challenges that were brought forth to discuss. These things are called The Signs of the Times. We can look at the nature, the process and the outcome. From there we dialogue. We can talk openly. We can talk openly. We can educate. We can advocate. We are encouraged to show peace and love. A challenge I put forth to you is to be a spirit filled community and to identify someone who is different and dialogue with them.
WSCF Program in Cambodia – Identity, Diversity and Dialogue
Over summer, some students put together a ‘zine’ (a self-published, creative mini magazine) to introduce our focus for the next few years – student wellbeing. It has puzzles, activities and information about what SCM is about.These are being shared with students across the country during Orientation weeks soon!
Want some Zines posted out to you? Email wellbeing(at)scm.org.nz your details for a copy!
Over Auckland Anniversary Weekend, SCM was part of the Wilderpeople Collective at Festival One, a Christian Music festival in Hamilton. The Wilderpeople are all about the hard questions in the wilderness, and the aim was to create a safer space for people to engage with faith, sexuality and identity.
The stall was decked out in activities, questions and conversation starters. The Living Library gave festival goers the chance to ‘borrow’ a person to hear their story. Documentaries played on a screen for people to put on some headphones for a listen. There was badge making, body art and continuums.
The first day was busy – people coming to talk, learn, talk and challenge. Such great feedback, so many people were so happy to see a stall about inclusivity – and people said they felt safe to ask the questions they have struggled with.
After the first half day, the Wilderpeople were asked to strip the stall of all LGBT+ references, in order to be more ‘family friendly.’ They tried to make it work – but it was no longer a space where people could safely explore these ideas. The Wilderpeople chose to leave when they were told they couldn’t restore the stall to it’s original state – and people noticed that the LGBT+ voice was silenced.
The Wilderpeople plan to keep having these conversations.
The Student Christian Movement in Aotearoa is looking for a new Women’s Coordinator to sit on the National Coordinating Group. This role involves being a voice for gender equality in the life and work of SCM, and representing SCM in other forums where a voice for women needs to be heard. Our Women’s Coordinator will also connect with sub regional and global women’s networks.
Hear from our previous Women’s Coordinator, Rauhina Scott-Fyfe on her time in the role:
“In my capacity as Women’s Coordinator this year, I have represented SCM at various forums, such as a panel discussion on Oil Drilling, a community dinner on Peace in Palestine, a youth forum on the Church’s response to the issue of child poverty, an interfaith group supporting LGBTI rights, the Council of Trade Unions Women’s Conference, and the Wellington Anglican Diocese ‘Radical Tea Party’ events, including discussions on ‘The Feminist Jesus’ and ‘The Elephant in the Room’ (LGBTI rights in the church). At the 2014 SCMA National Conference in Dunedin, SCMers attended a ‘March for Consent’, promoting awareness about rape culture in tertiary institutions in Aotearoa.
By far our highlight for the 2014-2016 year was organising and hosting the World Student Christian Federation Asia-Pacific Subregional Women’s Programme at Karitane, New Zealand (December 2014). The overarching theme was ‘Healing ourselves, our communities and our planet’. Women from more than nine countries around Asia-Pacific attended.” More information or to talk about the role more, please email the National Office. Expressions of interest welcomed to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 15th July.
From November 24-30th 2015, I attended the Asia Pacific Regional Women’s Programme titled “Reclaiming my identity: Building theological and critical reflection on body, sexuality, violence against women and the sexual minorities”. This programme was hosted by Bangladesh SCM and held in the Church of Bangladesh retreat centre in Savar. This coincided with the beginning of the UN 16 days of activism campaign, including the international day for the elimination of gender based violence. It was pretty cool to have these conversations during a time the issue is in the hearts and minds of so many globally. We wore orange ribbons as a reminder we were part of a much bigger picture. In our sessions we followed the Asian feminist theologizing spiral: naming the realities, identifying reinforcing agents and dominant theory, feminist critique and offering an alternative, providing action for transformation. This began with talking about violence against women in our country and looking at the situation in more detail in Bangladesh. Violence against women is a pandemic. It is suggested by the UN to be the experience of 1/3 of females worldwide. Unfortunately, everyone of us had stories of gender based violence manifesting in our own lives. The problem is so big it’s hard to know what we can do. After this workshop I would suggest the starting point should be listening to and validating women’s experiences.
The study of Genesis chapter three led by Dr Hope S Antone offered a new perspective on women as a creation of God. Eve is often blamed for the original sin, seen as a temptress and a troublemaker. Instead Hope suggested we could see “bone of my bone” as an image of mutuality or consider the translation to be without gender to simply mean earthling. Hope called for us to affirm ourselves as daughters of Eve, a limitless masterpiece rather than tainted or gullible. Bible study continued with guest speaker Rev David Das (general secretary of NCC Bangladesh). He challenged us to read our own bible and not that handed down by our brothers, husbands or fathers. His words echoed our previous study that violence is a sin which disregards the image of God. Churches have a responsibility to offer support and healing to victims. They can also offer possibilities of healing to the perpetrator of the violence. In reclaiming our identity it is necessary to also reclaim and rename our image of God, from the father of judgement to considering the image of God as a mother, a friend or simply a being.
The oppression of LGBT people was the main focus of the later days. This began with a “Sexual Minorities 101” session, clearing up the definitions and participants original perceptions. I was somewhat saddened when initially the majority agreed with the statement “God disagrees with Homosexuality”. The conversation developed addressing the questions: What is sexuality? Why doesn’t the church talk about it? And of course what does the bible actually say about homosexuality? For our exposure we visited Bandhu (“friends”) society a Dhaka based organisation supporting the health and welfare of sexual minorities. Shale Ahmed (organisation director) explained the biggest challenge to LGBT acceptance is “religious notions”. How unfortunate it is that world religions, which are sought after to provide refuge and peace are agents of oppression. Some participants left the exposure really keen to encourage further LGBT acceptance in their churches and national SCM. Our group dialogue switched focus to transformative action. The key suggestions were: 1) providing fellowship, getting to know LGBT people, listening to their stories and treating them with friendship and 2) continuing to educate ourselves and others on these issues. Despite initial hesitation the ending consensus was all humans are creations of God and thus this love should be shown to all. One participant said “after this week I’m not scared of those people anymore”.
The women I met from WSCF were truly wonderful, I consider them sisters and friends. However the initial prejudice they held of the LGBT community, disgruntled me significantly. If I heard some of these comments from people in New Zealand it would colour my entire view of their character. This experience taught me much about sharing meals, laughter and selfies with women who aren’t singing from the same hymn sheet as me. In order to move forward together we must start where people are. This means not leaving people behind just because they aren’t where we are.The closing worship included the song “A place at the table”. This was a fitting summary for my time in Bangladesh. Firstly because we were so well hosted, the food was always delicious. But secondly there should be a place at our table for everyone; those we disagree with, those who are oppressed and marginalised, the victim, the perpetrator. It is here, sitting at the table, listening with openness will bring real progress to our understanding of violence against women and the sexual minorities.