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Some readers will be aware that I hold a public meeting each month with a visiting speaker (frequently one of my Parliamentary colleagues) and everyone is welcome to attend, free of charge.

I was delighted that Archbishop Emeritus, The Right Reverend Sir David Moxon, spoke at my first monthly forum for the year at Café Agora in Frankton.   A large audience appreciated Archbishop David’s informative talk in which he spoke about his experiences of his four years based in the Vatican as the Anglican Communion’s Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

The Anglican Centre was established in 1966 when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsay, and Pope Paul VI committed to improving relations between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.   That vision has continued and today the Centre, housed in an historic Palace, offers hospitality and is a place where world faith leaders meet, study, pray and practise the ecumenism envisaged over 50 years ago. 

In addressing the diversity of our world and faiths, Archbishop David said that while Christians don’t always agree, our partnership is strengthened by the common ground we share – “despite our differences we remain friends”.  “The world needs unity in diversity”, he said.    Unity was important when addressing issues of justice and peace, slavery and civil war intervention.  Friendship is more important than anything else.  “If we stop talking then we don’t have a hope of friendship and sustainable partnership,” he said.

Reflecting on his tenure in Rome, Archbishop David spoke of the historic significance of the celebration of an Anglican Evensong in St Peter’s Basilica.   He noted that Evensong had evolved from the Roman Catholic monastic services of Compline and Vespers and been ‘taken back to Rome’ 400 years later.  It was also noteworthy that ordained Anglican women priests participated in the Evensong.

Another significant ecumenical event took place when leading Protestant ministers, including Archbishop David, were given permission to pray with Catholic Brothers and Sisters at the Altar of the Chair in the Pope’s Chapel.   Pope Francis agreed to these joint acts of prayer and sharing what we hold in common.

Throughout his address Archbishop David emphasised that what unites us is greater than that which divides us – that we share a common baptism. 

Archbishop David spoke of the historic joint statement in 2014 from all the world’s faith leaders and the efforts being made to address modern slavery and human trafficking.   It is estimated that 30 million people worldwide have no passport, wages or freedom.  There is a need to cleanse the supply chains, for example, in the manufacture of technological goods or garments and to ascertain whether slavery is being used to produce cheap goods.  Companies such as Apple, Hewlett Packard and Fortesque Metals have committed to working to eliminate this practice.

A New Zealand faith-based network estimates there may be 2,500 to 3,000 trafficked persons in our country and these persons may be found in horticulture, fishing, brothels and gambling institutions.  The New Zealand Police are focused on this area and neighbourhood awareness is very important.

The world’s faith leaders are united in fighting against slavery and addressing refugee challenges.    Good democracy needs good debate.  We need to be honest and it is important that we “speak the truth in love”. 

According to Archbishop David, New Zealanders are raised on these principles and because of our size, the Treaty, heritage and our pioneership we are well-positioned for good, healthy debate.  Archbishop David believes most New Zealanders hold these principles deeply and that we share a commitment to overcoming injustice.

His address was fascinating and inspiring and all present enjoyed it immensely.

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