The increasing cultural and religious diversity poses challenges, which New Zealand should address, recognising the human values of justice, tolerance and respect for others, Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand said.
“New Zealand is a nation whose cultural, religious and ethnic makeup has become considerably diverse, particularly in Auckland and especially so in the last quarter century. That diversity poses both opportunities and raised many challenges that need to be discussed,” he said, speaking at the Centenary Celebrations of the late Mother Teresa of Kolkata at the Christ the King of Parish Church at Mt Roskill in Auckland on November 7.
Paying tributes to Mother Teresa, he described her as “One of the most influential and iconic people of the 20th Century.” She gave up a relatively comfortable position as Headmistress of the Content School and moved into the slums where she began work establishing the ‘Missionaries of Charity,’ dedicated to assisting the poorest of the poor, he said.
Sir Anand said New Zealand could draw a number of lessons from her life and teachings.
He said there were three key messages inherent in Mother Teresa’s life and work.
They were Respect and Dignity towards Humanity, Service to the Community and the Power of Small Acts to Change Lives.
“It is in little things – courtesy to others, helping strangers in need, making donations to charities, volunteering out time to help others – that we being the process of change. In supporting worthy causes, every bit of efforts helps,” Sir Anand said.
Among those present were Lady Susan Satyanand, Opposition Leader Phil Goff, MPs Dr Jackie Blue, Dr Rajen Prasad and Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi.
The Mother Teresa Centennial Committee under the chairmanship of Wenceslaus Anthony had organised the meeting, which was attended by more than 500 people of Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh and other faiths.
Mr Anthony drew personal references to Mother Teresa with whom he had worked and described how her life, work and teachings had influenced him over the years.
India’s High Commissioner Retired Admiral Sureesh Mehta said Mother Teresa was a unique individual who stood out of the crowd because of her involvement in helping the sick, the poor and the dying.
“She spent every day of her adulthood caring for people who were in need in her ‘Missionaries of Charity’ as also in the many homes for the people she cared. She was a powerful woman with a missionary zeal and countless acts of mercy,” he said.
Mr Mehta said people like Mother Teresa gave a new meaning to life. She proved that one person could make a difference in the lives of millions of people.
“She made a difference, not by helping everyone but by making people stop and realise how they could do the same,” he said.
A number of speakers from various religious communities extolled Mother Teresa for her service to humanity.
Vinod Kumar, President of the Hindu Council of New Zealand (HCNZ) said one of the sayings of Mother Teresa, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop,” was of significance to the society.
“In carrying forward the legacies establishing by people like Mother Teresa and merging that with the teachings of Hindu saints, HCNZ has been working the community since 1993. It has a team of dedicated and committed volunteers with a clear vision, inspired by the eternal values of Dharma,” he said.
Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) Dawah and Outreach Coordinator Dr Mustafa Farouk said the life and teachings of Mother Teresa were enshrined in the Holy Qaran. Quoting a verse from the Holy Book, he said, “You shall worship none but God; and you shall do good unto your parents and kinsfolk, and the orphans, and the poor; and you shall speak unto all people in a kindly way; and you shall be constant in prayer; and you shall spend in charity.”
He said New Zealand Muslims were striving to become fully integrated and contributing members of the New Zealand society.
“We are proud of our faith and the beautiful country that we have adopted,” he said.
Auckland Sikh Society Secretary Raj Bedi drew comparisons between the teachings of Mother Teresa and that of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Holy Book of Sikhs.
“Sikhs recite the Shabad (Hymn), which says, ‘One who sings the Glorious Praises of the Lord 24 hours a day and remembers the Lord in meditation, who is kind to the poor, saves himself and redeems all generations; of his bonds are released,’ is similar to the teachings of Mother Teresa,” he said.
Among the other speakers at the event were Auckland Catholic Bishop Most Rev Partick Dunn, Superior of Mother Teresa’s Congregation Rev Sister Vincy, Robert Newson of the Families Commission, Christ the King Church Parish Priest Ray Green, Abbess Manshin of the Buddhist Order and Christina Wright, on behalf of Warwick Wright, a member of the Centennial Committee.
Earlier, Sir Anand released ‘Mother Teresa of Calcutta,‘ a biography by Marty Kathleen Glavich and handed over the first copy to National Bank Business Development Manager Sunil Kaushal and Mr Mehta presented the first copy of ‘Mother Teresa Souvenir Card’ to Kalamazoo Group Managing Director Steve D’Souza.
Music and dance performers included students of the Marist Girls School, St Peter’s College, the Auckland Sikh Society and men and women of the Buddhist Order.