Conference - christianity and development between New Zealand and the Pacific

Woven Together?

Christianity and Development between New Zealand and the Pacific

Date: 9-10 June 2016

Venue: Hunter Council Chambers
Hunter Building, Kelburn Campus
Victoria University of Wellington

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On 9-10 June the Religious Studies Programme at Victoria University of Wellington, with support from the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, the New Zealand Aid Programme, and Victoria University, hosted a conference on the theme “Woven Together? Christianity and Development Between New Zealand and the Pacific.” The event brought together leading scholars and development practitioners to explore the complex relationships between Christianity and development across the Pacific.

Over the past decade significant new research has shown that religion can play important roles in development processes including in such diverse activities as peacebuilding, conservation, microenterprise, and disaster relief. While a vibrant and exciting field of research has been built in this area internationally, the field has yet to gain much attention in New Zealand. This conference, therefore, sought to initiate a new conversation by focusing on the remarkably prominent social, political, economic, and cultural role that Christianity plays in the Pacific. A recurring theme in many presentations was that ignoring religion, or treating religion as merely a private and personal matter, was inadequate for those engaged with development in the Pacific. Instead, a more proactive approach is needed.

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A particular highlight of the conference was the contribution made by Pasifika scholars from across the region. In her presentation Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko, from the University of Otago, challenged the Pacific churches to take seriously the widespread problem of domestic violence. She argued that Christianity should become a powerful advocate for ending all forms of domestic violence. Alesana Pala'amo, a doctoral student at Massey University, discussed the challenges and opportunities for pastoral counseling services in Samoa. Cliff Bird, a theologian from the Solomon Islands and the Pacific Regional Coordinator for UnitingWorld, argued for the important role that Pacific churches should play in addressing environmental concerns. A significant part of this contribution would involve the articulation of an Oceanic theology of sustainable development, and Bird sought to outline the contours for such a theology in his presentation.

Organisers: Philip Fountain and Geoff Troughton were delighted with the strength and vibrancy of the conversation. They are planning to publish a volume composed of selected papers from the conference in order to engage a broader audience in this important discussion.

Conference programme

Please see full conference programmepdf815KB.