The Hindu Youth Foundation, a division of Hindu Council, New Zealand, organised the first New Zealand Hindu Youth Conference at Hindu Heritage Centre, Mangere, Auckland on May 2. The theme of the conference was ?Living in Modern New Zealand with Traditional Values?. The guests and dignitaries were welcomed in traditional Hindu way by placing a tilak on their forehead.
The conference started with lighting of the traditional lamps by special guests. Maori Elder, Haare Williams, blessed the conference with a Maori karakia (prayer and blessing) and Swami Vigyananand blessed the occasion with a Vedic prayer. In his speech, Haare Williams said youth are like flower buds and need to be nurtured and looked after.
Welcoming the participants, the conference coordinator Smt Pritika Sharma mentioned that the Hindu youth conference was the first step towards building a stronger and dynamic youth network based on principles of Hindu civilisation; and to network with other like-minded organisations. ?Encouraging and retaining the cultural heritage and individual identities of various ethnic communities, makes New Zealand so unique and diverse,? she said.
The aim of the conference was to celebrate the identity of Hindu youth and to ensure that Hindu youth develop into productive citizens. It is by creating awareness about opportunities to channelise their energy in a constructive way so as to contribute and facilitate social cohesion and economic prosperity of New Zealand.
More than 130 delegates participated in the conference. Six parliamentarians including Pansy Wong, the Minister for Ethnic Affairs & the Minister of Women'sAffairs; Phil Goff, Leader of the Opposition, and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Chris Carter, former Minister for Ethnic Affairs & the Minister of Education; and Members of Parliament Dr Rajen Prasad, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, and Su?a William Sio, participated in the inaugural session. There were also a number of special invitees (Government and non-government agencies), community and business leaders, and members of the Hindu Elders Foundation who participated in the event. Their participation was heart warming and boosted the morale of Hindu youth. The buzz at the conference was that positive development of Hindu youth is vital towards building a stronger and more dynamic New Zealand society.
Speeches delivered by youth leaders Meena Lakshmanan, Nikita Sharma and Deepal Singh were well received and drew enthusiastic applause from the audience. In her presentation, Smt Meena Lakshmanan said youth is the life force of a nation, or society; youth is the strength; youth is wealth. ?When you study the nature of the young mind, you will find them a born rebel, born revolutionary or born reformer, sometimes all rolled in one,? she said. She also mentioned that in terms of youth power ?Hindu civilisation is the youngest!? because 700 million Hindus are below the age of 35; 560 millions are below the age of 25; 350 millions are below the age of 19; and 250 millions are below the age of 14. The Hindu youth power will continue to contribute to the world'speace, progress and prosperity.
Smt Nitika Sharma mentioned that Hindu Dharma is dynamic and so are Hindu youth. She called upon the Hindu youth to be comfortable and proud of their cultural heritage. ?The confidence comes from who you are, where you come from and how you have made a positive contribution to society you have lived in,? she said. In her well researched article, she mentioned that despite the challenges faced in New Zealand, Hindu youth are very well placed in New Zealand community by showing some interesting facts obtained from Statistics New Zealand. In percentage terms, Hindu youth have almost twice the bachelor and post-graduate degrees, and twice the roles as administrators and managers, when compared to rest of the population.
Smt. Deepal Singh, in her presentation, emphasised four stages of globalisation of culture: start with facing the ?unknown? ? Phase 1; excitement upon arrival, everything is new and wonderful ? Phase 2; homesickness, frustration, fear where depression may occur ? Phase 3; Beginning to adjust, making friends, and participating in activities ? Phase 4. She defined culture as ?the shared patterns of behaviours and interactions?. This shared patterns-identity helps in distinguishing one group from another group.
All speakers praised the efforts of the Hindu youth leadership in terms of putting the conference together, and for their positive contributions for the overall development of the country. Pansy Wong said New Zealand is the land of opportunities, and those who dare to dream will be able to realise their aspirations, by giving a personal example of herself ? the first ethnic community member becoming a Cabinet Minister in New Zealand Government. Parliamentarian Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi mentioned that he was proud to be a Hindu and he would like members of the Hindu community to be proud of being a Hindu.
This also gave the service providers an opportunity to guide and support Hindu youth to enable them to achieve their full potential. The discussion panel was chaired by Rohan Jaduram (Human Rights Commission). The government agencies that participated in the panel were Ministry of Youth Development (MYD), Ministry of Social Development (MSD), New Zealand Police, Office of Ethnic Affairs (OEA) and Child Youth and Families (CYF). MYD offered Hindu Youth Foundation to join Provoke (a youth network); MSD offered Project Planning workshops; and HRC invited Hindu youth to the diversity forum and annual Outward Bound Multi Ethnic Leadership course.
The New Zealand Hindu Students Forum, for university students, was launched during the conference.
In the Hindu community, elders play an important role in shaping the youth ? the future generation. As soon as the youth conference was announced, the Hindu Elders Foundation came forward to help in all areas. All delegates, speakers and participants gave their best input and efforts to make this a worthwhile conference.