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Let us share dignity on New Zealand’s Cultural Holiday

National Party (List) MP Melissa Lee (Photo Supplied)

Melissa Lee
Wellington, November 2, 2021

Although the public festivities have been cancelled in most parts of our country for this year’s Diwali, the light will still shine for the thousands of New Zealanders who cherish this cultural holiday across our nation.

Whether a candle in the windowsill or the stringing of Christmas lights in our living rooms we can still celebrate the light of Diwali and the special things it means to all of us no matter Covid-19 or anything else we have to face.

For me, this will be my Fourteenth Diwali since being elected as a Member of Parliament and for each of those occasions, I remember the laughter, song and fun of so many happy families, particularly in our largest city of Auckland, as we all came together to remember what is so special about the festival of lights.

From Diwali’s ancient roots it has become a multifaith and secular institution that celebrates the very best of Indian culture and community.

Looking back through my archives of more than a decade of countless speeches to different New Zealand communities about the importance of Diwali I remember the flash mob that blew bubbles and danced around Central Auckland in 2012.

While we cannot spread joy and happiness into the heart of the CBD like that year’s festivities did, we can still do many things to show how much the Festival means. In Parliament for Diwali we have seen beautiful mandalas on display in past years alongside the other stunning flourishes of music, dance and colour transforming our House of Representatives into a hub of community spirit.

Diwali in Christchurch (2019)

Being a part of so many of these celebrations as a Member of Parliament, I cannot help but state firmly the message of Diwali, ensuring the light shines through, has fully come into the core of New Zealand’s democratic values.

For many of us though, Diwali is simply a time to enjoy celebrating with friends from the diverse multiethnic backgrounds that are a part of New Zealand’s cultural essence.

Even though we still don’t know when normalcy will return to the world and we can once again travel (or indeed attend large events here in New Zealand!), it is a time of festivity, goodwill and new beginnings.

This year, as many of us reflect at home we can use the time of Diwali to acknowledge the challenges we have faced, to remember those no longer with us and to turn afresh to our future aspirations.

Diwali, like Holi and other celebrations that have sprung from the wellspring of Indian culture now, holds a special place in Kiwi hearts and, much like many other parts of Indian culture, Diwali now has a cemented place in the cultural lifeblood of New Zealand. This is because, to celebrate holidays like Diwali is to allow us all to build empathy with other parts of our nation and to help continue New Zealand’s growth as a tolerant, resilient and spirited country.

As I have said in the past Diwali speeches, New Zealand is a culturally diverse nation. This is something that we should all be proud of. Our diversity is a part of our national identity, we are all New Zealanders and we all make this country a wonderful place to live. To paraphrase the great Indian Independence advocate Seth Govind Das, it requires greater devotion, greater care, greater application and greater sacrifice to support one another during times of such trials that we are enduring across the world.

This Diwali year, we must all remember how important it will be to give those extra moments that we can share with others the dignity and serenity they are worth as the Covid-19 epidemic has shown us how important that light is in our lives.

With best wishes to everyone celebrating Diwali for a wonderful summer and New Year ahead.

Satyameva Jayate!

Melissa Lee is Member of Parliament on National List and the Party’s Spokesperson for Broadcasting & Media, Digital Economy and Communications and Ethnic Communities.

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