Festival of Lights reinforces cultural plurality

The rising popularity of Diwali is an indication of New Zealand’s emergence as a successful multicultural and multiethnic society, Ethnic Affairs Minister Hekia Parata said.

She said sharing celebrations like the Festival of Lights provided an opportunity for all New Zealanders to gain a better understanding of the different communities prevalent in the country.

“It also plays an important role in making New Zealand a more tolerant and resilient society,” she said, speaking at the Diwali celebrations held in Parliament Buildings on September 19, 2011.

Earlier, Prime Minister John Key praised the members of the Indian community for their hard work and contributions to the progress of New Zealand.

“I always look forward to attending Diwali festival,” he said and spoke of his recent State visit to India and the discussions he had with the leaders and other officials in Delhi and Mumbai.

Ms Parata said that Diwali had become a popular celebration in New Zealand for Indian and other wider communities.

“Diwali is a time of festivity and of goodwill and is the most important festival of the year for many Hindus around the world. The popularity of Diwali in New Zealand illustrates the influence Indian culture has had on our society,” she said.

“It is also a time for reflection especially for those who have experienced loss, such as in the Christchurch earthquakes.”

Ms Parata spoke of the close relationship existing between the two countries, especially in tourism, education and trade.

“This relationship is set to grow with the India-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, which is currently being negotiated,” she said.

She said that the people of Indian origin constituted the second largest Asian ethnic group, with the 2006 Census placing their population at 104,583.

“The Hindu community is the second largest faith-based community, with more than 64,000 listed.

“We are committed to creating an environment and economy that supports you to participate in all aspects of New Zealand life, and to tapping into your skills, knowledge and international connections,” she said.

More than 250 people including Ministers, Members of Parliament, Indian High Commissioner Admiral Sureesh Mehta, community leaders and others attended the event, which has become an annual feature.

Retiring Labour MP Dr Ashraf Choudhary organised the first Diwali Festival in Parliament in 2005, a move that has become popular with successive Governments.

Photo Caption: Ethnic Affairs Minister Hekia Parata lights the traditional lamp symbolising Diwali Festival in Parliament on September 26, 2011, watched by Prime Minister John Key (right) and India’s High Commissioner Admiral Sureesh Mehta (left) Picture by Edi Go, Office of Ethnic Affairs, Wellington

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