News Release

Religious and Diplomatic Leaders Discuss Vital Place of Faith in New Zealand

The U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, H.E. Mark Gilbert, and U.S. Consul General, Ms. Melanie Higgins hosted faith leaders in Auckland last night for a discussion on ways to strengthen individuals, families and communities.

Among the guests were Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, Pacific Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; The Most Rev’d Philip Richardson, Tikanga Pakeha - Archbishop and Primate/ Te Pihopa Matamua, Senior Bishop for the seven tikanga Pakeha Dioceses, and Bishop of Taranaki; Rabbi Friedler, Auckland Hebrew Congregation; Ms. Ruth Cleaver, President, Auckland Interfaith Council; Daljit Singh, Supreme Sikh Council; Mr. Hazim Arafeh, President, FIANZ; and Reverend Uesefili Unasa, St. Paul’s Methodist Church, Remuera.

“It was a wonderful evening,” Elder Nielsen said. “We are very grateful for Ambassador Gilbert and Consul General Higgins’ kindness, welcome and interest in the churches and faith communities of New Zealand.”

“We discussed a range of subjects including ways to open up dialogue so we can understand the beliefs of different religions in order to help each other to build strong families, encourage education, strengthen communities and be better neighbours.”

Elder Nielsen added, “Underpinning all of this is the need to protect freedom of religion and belief for all, so we can continue to live in a nation in which we are free to love God and to love our neighbour.”

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