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The Sea of Faith Network (NZ)

The Sea of Faith Network is an association of people who have a common interest in exploring religious thought and expression from a non-dogmatic and human-oriented standpoint

The Panel Discussion at the 2003 Conference

As is the usual practice, the Conference ended with a panel discussion of Keynote Speakers. Te Miringa Hohaia (who had to leave early) was replaced by Lloyd Geering. Also on the panel, which was chaired by Noel Cheer, were Derek Evans and David Williams. Here are some of the things that they said, either verbatim or in paraphrase:

David Williams: ”The failure to heal the wounds of war essentially means in the hearts and minds of those who feel they are victims that the war tends to live on — and for them to move on from the victim mode does need some acknowledgment from the rest of us.”

Lloyd Geering: “You cannot have a culture without its own language ... [but] ... all small cultures and languages spoken in small areas are going to disappear ...

David Williams: “The Welsh have turned around a minority language into a growing language ... if we are to survive as a species we must hang on to diversity.”

Derek Evans: The assertion of a minority language has an important political dimension.

Derek Evans: ‘Restorative justice’ and similar processes such as reconciliation require five things to happen for the victim: 1) the victim’s story of what happened is made known 2) “they want the people who have done these things identified and recognised” 3) they want someone in authority to declare what happened to them was wrong 4) restitution or support for rehabilitation 5) those in authority to say that it will not happen again, to their children, because specific changes have been made.

Lloyd Geering: The Holocaust induced a feeling of guilt in the West for what it, through the German people, did to the Jews. This has enabled Israel to develop the strength that it presently has. Older Israelis who remember the Holocaust recognise this but younger Israelis fail to see the irony in the fact that “Israel is treating the Palestinians in the same way that they were treated by the Nazis.”

David Williams: On the still-undetermined ‘foreshore’ issue, “the government contributed to a race relations disaster ... when Maori are perceived as getting uppity, that plays out at the local level — landlords feeling more able to discriminate against people in tenancy situations ....”

Derek Evans: Talking in the context of the US as an “hegemonic power” (in French “hyperpower”): “The United States is probably the nation that has the least level of international accountabilities, formally, of any country in the world.” The United States will not acknowledge an international treaty as a ‘top law’ because they regard the US Constitution as ‘top law’.

We ended by inviting each panelist to engage in an imaginary telephone conversation with a world leader of their choice.

Derek Evans chose to talk to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and to say “good for you, I want to encourage and support you” and that he has “a deep well of respect for what you stands for”. He wanted to draw attention to the UN Declaration of Human Rights as a treaty “in the name of the people” and not one between governments.

David Williams wanted to talk to Hu Jintao, the President of China and to acknowledge that the Chinese people are growing in significance in the world-wide scheme of things, and especially in the South Pacific. He wanted to tell President Hu that he is disturbed that the recent archeological discovery in China of what seem so obviously to have been very old foreign money was jingoistically declared to have been Chinese in origin. “Its OK to be different, its OK to have different people in your country — different nationalities — its actually OK for the Dalai Lama to come home to Tibet and [its OK] to honour the different minorites — because a world in which Americans rule, as they rule at the moment, is a world dominated by Europeans and its not a very good world to be dominated by Europeans if you’re Chinese. Look what happened to some of your citizens who came to New Zealand in the gold mining period — they were rather harshly dealt with. We don’t want that to happen in the future when you are dominant. We want you to be kinder to us than we were to some of your citizens in New Zealand. “

Lloyd Geering “conversed” with US President George W. Bush. “Now 9/11 was a terrible time for you and we all felt for you very much — it was a terrible blow — and I can understand why you felt that you needed to react by starting a war on terrorism. But I think you went about it in the wrong way. If you were really sure it was Osama bin Laden, why didn’t you offer to go and have a good old talk to him, face-to-face. ... You always solve these things better by talking to them. You see, Osama bin Laden felt that he had a real grievance against you — and against America generally — and you really need to listen to what he has to say. Now you mightn’t agree with him but, in the end, you would have done far better than to have searched for him in Afghanistan. ... I think that its a good thing that you are concerned with ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction ... but you went to the wrong place ... they weren’t there ... and you, of all people, should know where one is to be found ... its in Dimona ... yes, its in Israel ... and why haven’t you ... caused to send inspectors there? ... We really wish you well because you are a very powerful person and much of the world depends on you.”