Israel-Hamas conflict: Jewish, Muslim communities in New Zealand meet

  • 18/01/2024

Jewish and Muslim communities in New Zealand have come together to work towards a unified approach to the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza. 

It comes not long after the war reached its 100-day mark, with over 24,000 people killed. 

Jewish and Muslim community elders and youth have met in a forum held at the Centre of Peace and Dialogue in Wellington to find a common platform for dialogue for a pathway to peace in Gaza. 

"Given there is polarisation of viewpoints, our social cohesion strategy calls for shared conversations on difficult issues and this has been the key objective of this peace initiative," the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) senior adviser Farouk Khan said. 

"We need each other to make change. We came here to find common ground, and we agree that real solutions must recognise the equal human rights of all people," co-founder of Sh'ma Koleinu Alternative Jewish Voices (NZ) Marilyn Garson said. 

The forum, which had both Muslim and Jewish speakers, had representatives from a number of government agencies present. 

"It was a first step in a difficult journey of seeking peace in a region which has seen over 75 years of violence and human tragedy. Here we had an opportunity to have an Aotearoa New Zealand approach, which is based on having respect and understanding," FIANZ head of interfaith dialogue Mustafa Farouk said. 

The roundtable discussion of respected elders, leaders and youth from the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The roundtable discussion of respected elders, leaders and youth from the Jewish and Muslim communities. Photo credit: Supplied/FIANZ

Fred Albert, a member of the Jewish community in New Zealand, said the event was a success. He said it chartered new approaches based on dialogue and laid the foundation platform so that Jewish and Muslim youth can meet next month and continue this journey. 

"That both the Muslim and Jewish community members can have a shared narrative at this time of immense societal tension and polarisation with the unfolding 'crisis of humanity' [quoting the UN Secretary General], is rare in any other part of the world. We have to harness our smallness and our shared experience in this country," FIANZ RCOI chairperson Abdur Razzaq said. 

Razzaq said plans are progressing for a national gathering of Muslim and Jewish youth next month to continue the discussion. 

The forum was the initiative of FIANZ, the umbrella national Muslim organisation, which in November called for the Government to expel the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand.