Article Published in the Botany and Ormiston Times - March 5 2015

Beyond Tolerance to Respect - by Eric Neal

One of the main attractions of New Zealand is its people. Sure, the climate is great, the scenery is attractive, the environment is better than in most places in the world, but it is the people that make New Zealand special. There are a few who prefer to rebel against society, but thankfully it is a very small percentage, and a huge majority of Kiwis are not only tolerant of people with different religions and backgrounds, but seem to embrace the differences and are keen to learn more about their fellow Kiwis from different parts of the world.

Our diversity should be celebrated. Auckland is one of the most diverse cities in the world, yet we have so few issues that other countries experience in attempting to accept and respect others, be it different languages, cultural backgrounds, religion or ethnicity. We are really a working model of unity in diversity, something we take so much for granted, but we should be so immensely proud of the Kiwi attitude.
When someone shows disrespect, such as the recent display of an objectionable T-shirt at the Canterbury Museum, New Zealanders are quick to voice their disgust, and rightly so. This has nothing to do with free speech or freedom of expression, because these require a huge amount of responsibility, otherwise these freedoms would lead to nothing short of anarchy. This has everything to do with the total disregard of people’s feelings, and this is not the New Zealand way.

Shame on the designer of the T-shirt. Shame on the Canterbury Museum for displaying such an obscenity. But good on you Kiwis for expressing your displeasure.

May we continue to be tolerant and respectful of others and their feelings. May we continue to speak out against disrespect in a peaceful way, and this way New Zealand will continue to be an attractive country in which to live.

- Eric Neal is a member of the Baha'i Faith Community and author of the book 'A Beginner's Guid to God'

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