Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Social conscience.

Major Campbell Roberts.. a truly great man. 
Crowds protested throughout the country.
I like the cheeky sentiment. Our PM is in my view a slick, but shallow man.
Workplace Support Chaplains' Conference.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week I joined with other chaplains in a conference entitled "Raising a Social Conscience". The speaker was a man I have admired from afar. Major Campbell Roberts from the Salvation Army Research and Parliamentary Affairs unit is often seen on TV making some comment on social issues. He talked of talking with parliamentarians and even the Prime Minister in the role that he has. He has been a clever advocate for the poor in New Zealand, he researches carefully, speaks wisely and bravely on public issues. He is a quietly spoken man who is not afraid to stand up to be counted so I was looking forward to the time to actually meet him and learn from him. He also has a history with Industrial Chaplaincy in Dunedin. He was the first chaplain in Dunedin, and Inter-church Trade and Industry Missions' first director.  So as he talked he knew where workplace chaplains were coming from and how we operate. Much of the material he presented on the Biblical call to be involved in Social Justice issues I was familiar with. He introduced us to the Neo-Liberal mindset that is prevalent in the world today and its impacts on life and society.  He also critiqued the opposite stance but suggested the Neo-Liberal position was showing some frailty, and that maybe the time was ripe for different perspectives and view points. I enjoyed the sessions he ran, he had depth and  a beautiful wise perspective. He also spoke from a position of years of practicing what he "preached". 
Night Shelter progress.
I was thinking that I could blot out all Night Shelter issues for three days, but even though I had limited access to the internet, I received emails and phone calls that demanded attention. I report now that we are down to "only" needing to raise $80,000 to complete our purchase of the Night Shelter buildings. Today I sent away an application for $50,000 and another seeking funding support from another Trust. I have other Trusts to apply to, so it is getting to the exciting stage when we might cross the finish line within weeks. When it happens I am determined to have a party to celebrate!
TPPA - Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
Our government is negotiating to sign this trade agreement. I was first introduced to this over a year ago when I had a conversation at a Farmers Market on Waiheke Island.  I have tried to sort out conspiracy theory from fact. First it is hard to know the facts because the negotiations and content of the agreement  are all secret and not even Parliament gets to vote on it. That rubs against my understanding of democracy and makes me feel unsettled. The documents that have been leaked seem to indicate that big overseas business corporates will have a lot of power to influence what goes on in New Zealand. I have seen documentaries about how some of these corporates rule the roost in the USA and impact food production, having all sorts of unfair power over ordinary farmers, environmentalists and legislators. I do not want that here! On Saturday there was a national day of action to let the powers that be know our discontent about this, and a protest march was organised to walk through the main street of Dunedin to the Octagon in the centre of the city. My wife and I felt so strongly about this that we interrupted our Saturday to join this protest. There were about 2500 -3000 people walking. (play the U tube clip to catch the spirit of it) There was a controlled sense of frustration and anger against the Neo-Liberal mindset behind the TPPA and the non-democratic and arrogant way it was being progressed. Cars hooted their encouragement, people on the footpaths cheered us and many joined in. The numbers involved were very impressive given that the day was cool and threatened rain. I felt excited and yet scared. Here was rebellious people-power, at this point controlled and well mannered, but you could sense the seething anger. It was a spine tingling experience walking along to the beat of a drum chanting slogans among so many people, young and old, rich and poor from all walks of life. The same sort of support was expressed in cities and towns throughout the country.  I doubt John Key and his ministers will listen, and that scares me! New Zealanders love their democratic rights and even apathetic people will rise up and rebel if these are seen to be trampled on. 

It seemed like an exclamation mark on my three days of learning about and discussing social justice topics. 

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