Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, inaugurated the first Hindu Conference in New Zealand by lighting the lamp on May 12 at Hindu Heritage Centre, Auckland. The theme of the Conference was ?Contribution of Hindu community in national life of New Zealand?. It covered the economic, health, environmental, social and cultural aspects. The welcome address was delivered by Shri Vinod Kumar, president of Hindu Council of New Zealand.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the Hindus? contribution in national life of New Zealand and was impressed by the vision and mission statements of the organisation.
Delivering the keynote address Dr Guna Magesan, general secretary of the Council and a senior scientist with NZ government research organisation, highlighted the fact (NZ census 2006) that Hindu community is the second largest faith-based community in New Zealand and it grew by 62 per cent in the last five years. He highlighted the contribution of Hindus in health, economic, education, social and cultural aspects. He mentioned how Hindu doctors and nurses are providing health services by working in various health boards and running private hospitals.
Sir Barry Curtis, Mayor of Manukau city, described Manukau as the Hindu capital of New Zealand. Shri Haare Williams, the kaumatua (a Maori elder) and Tangata Whenua (son of the soil), blessed the occasion with a Maori traditional prayer along with Swami Vigyananand of World Hindu Council who blessed with the Hindu prayer. Haare Williams was impressed by the welcome by the Hindu community and told the audience that he felt being at home and wanted to participate in future conferences.
This conference also provided a platform for all the Hindu organisations and like-minded groups to showcase their contributions to the New Zealand society. There were seven paper presentation sessions and three workshops. The workshops focused on issues, which were common to all Hindu organisations, and also to the wider community, such as Health and wellbeing, Education and culture and Social beliefs and family.
Although this conference was mainly for the New Zealand community, presence of a number of visitors from overseas has encouraged the conference organisers to go worldwide next year. Shri Aruneshwar Gupta, president of Hindu Heritage Foundation, Shri Ravi Kumar, joint coordinator Sewa International, Shri Vijay Singhal, secretary of Hindu Council of Australia and Swami Sanyuktanand from Fiji Sevashram Sangh also participated and blessed the conference.
Hindu Council of New Zealand has identified key issues of the Hindu community and has decided to launch the Hindu Social Services Charitable Trust to work with the community and the government agencies to find solutions to the burning social issues.
Following the success of this conference, the next year'sconference was announced to be held from 16 to 18 May 2008 with the theme ?Sustaining New Zealand Communities with Yoga, Meditation and Ayurveda?. (FOC)