15 Apr 2015

Religious group expands to include Muslims

9:43 am on 15 April 2015

A religious group representing Christian and Jewish communities has expanded to include Muslims in an effort to foster friendship and dialogue between religions.

Sultan Eusoff

Sultan Eusoff Photo: RNZ / Max Towle

The group celebrated its relaunch as the Wellington Abrahamic Council of Jews, Christians and Muslims at Parliament last night.

Council Jewish co-chair Dave Moskovitz said the new group aimed to promote understanding between the three religions.

"Recent geo-political events as well as the rapid growth in the Muslim community here in Wellington and in New Zealand prompted us to think 'wouldn't it be great to have a Muslim voice in the conversation that is already going on between Christians and Jews because we have so much in common'," Mr Moskovitz said.

The majority of people in all three of the religions wanted a peaceful world but the extremists which took up most of the media's attention, he said.

"There are extremists in all of our religions and there are also extremists outside of our religions. There are atheist extremists who are extremists for a wide variety of different causes. For us, the important thing is to work together in a positive way."

Council Christian co-chair Reverend Jenny Chalmers said the joining of the three religions in one group could be something of a world first.

"It's been an extremely important step and it is one of the first in the world, although the International Council of Christians and Jews has had Muslims as part of their trialogue for some time, we are in fact one of the first to be constituted in this way," she said.

Federation of Islamic Associations chief executive Sultan Eusoff, who is the council's Muslim co-chair, said the Wellington Muslim community was delighted to be part of the council and he hoped the group would inspire dialogue and friendship.

"What we are trying to create here, it can be a catalyst for the rest of New Zealand and, indeed, for the rest of the world. We can be a beacon for peace, happiness and tranquility."

New Zealanders were largely known for their friendliness and Muslims who had migrated to Wellington felt welcome in their adopted home, he said.