The New Zealand chair of UK-founded Barnabas Fund, former West Hamilton vicar Rev Michael Hewat, is advocating for the rights of Christians who experience unacceptable limitations to their religious freedom under socially liberal legislative changes made by secular western governments.
In a letter to supporters Mr Hewat aligns with the UK movement that questions the freedom of rights of Christians.
"Religious freedom is being significantly eroded in many countries throughout the world in a resurgence of intolerance and uniformity." he writes.
"One of Barnabas Fund’s chief goals has always been to highlight and challenge the worst and most violent forms of religious persecution. But the creeping and insidious
marginalisation of faith and the shrinking of our hard-fought-for freedoms have also been a concern in recent years."
"Barnabas Fund is seeking a formal government review of how well the seven fundamental aspects of freedom of religion are being protected in New
"These freedoms were developed by various mechanisms over the last five centuries, including the Treaty of Waitangi and the Bill of Rights
Act 1999." That Bill of Rights Act:
• affirms the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, including the right to hold and embrace views without interference
• protects the right to express religion and belief in worship, observance, teaching and practice
• affirms the right of minorities to be free from discrimination
In an accompanying pamphlet the Barnabas Fund notes that the religious freedoms that are particularly under threat are those of Christians who believe that current human rights legislations in New Zealand put the state in conflict with traditional Christian understandings of personhood and righteous behaviour.
"..We are asking for a review to see how well they are currently being implemented and whether any group, for example Christians, may be “falling through the cracks” and their rights being neglected, sidelined or undermined."
Michael Hewat calls on supporters of the public rights of Christians to sign a petition calling upon the Minister of Justice to review and safeguard their religious freedoms.
"And the freedom from being required to affirm a particular worldview or belief in order to hold a particular job (except where there is a genuine
occupational requirement such as chaplaincy posts), stand for election, study at university or give parental care to a child."
"It is very easy to feel safe and secure as a Christian in the West compared with our brothers and sisters elsewhere. But our religious freedom came about as a result of brave believers standing up to totalitarian authority. We believe it is time to enshrine those hard-won rights in New Zealand, for followers of all religions and none."
For more information go to the NZ Barnabas Fund