Immigrants come to New Zealand for… New Zealand. So why change it?

John Roughan is one of the few sane voices left at the NZ Herald

We don’t think of ourselves as a Christian country but I bet non-Christian immigrants do, and I bet they are not disappointed. They probably won’t even notice that their invitation to a Christmas dinner put on by Auckland Regional Migrant Services has gone to great trouble not to mention Christmas.

Let’s be fair, the agency wants to avoid any risk that its clients might think the invitation is only for Christians. I’m more disappointed to read that the “festive lunch”, where the providers will be careful to say, “season’s greetings”, will be a “multi-ethnic pot-luck lunch”, whatever that is. I wonder if they would prefer the real thing.

You can go to too much trouble to make people feel at home. They are not at home and do not always need to be reminded of it. Having chosen to come to a different culture, even as refugees, it is just possible they have been looking forward to the experience of Christmas in a country classified as Christian.

They cannot say so, for nobody wants to embarrass those who treat you with excessive sensitivity. But I do hope the guests of the nice people at Auckland Regional Migrant Services respond to their “season’s greetings” with a hearty “Merry Christmas”. Those are two English words every immigrant will know.

Soon enough they will discover that Western countries downplay their religious heritage even at Christmas. When Dame Susan Devoy, as Race Relations Commissioner, wrote a contribution to the debate this week in which she said, “the overwhelming majority of Kiwis are Christians”, she must have meant it in a cultural sense. She has had a religious upbringing and maybe you need to have had one to realise how much of what we think, say and do reflects the stories, philosophy and ethics of Christianity.

Anthropologists delight in telling us Christmas had its origins in celebrations of the northern winter solstice that were common in pre-Christian cultures. But Christianity gave it a story. Cynics will say its celebration today is a creation of commerce but commerce alone could not have created goodwill on this scale. Commerce without a story is Mother’s Day.

New immigrants know the story. Many of them come from countries that are more Christian in a church-going sense than New Zealand is. But more of them are now coming from Muslim countries and they know the story too. If they are the reason the Arms agency is neutralising its language, we have a problem.

The absurd thing is that I don’t see anyone who wasn’t born here pushing for the abolition of Christmas.  No… it is much worse than that.  It’s New Zealand born Kiwis that are pushing for it to be toned down in case it might “offend” or “exclude” others.

Has Devoy actually BEEN in multi-ethnic communities in New Zealand?  Has she seen how churches have put up walls to keep Hindi away?  Is she aware Buddhist temples are keeping Christians out?   Has she seen East Auckland riots where people have torn down Christmas decorations from shops and private homes?

I suspect not.

If you turn the whole thing around:  imagine yourself in the USA at this time of year.  Everyone has been preparing for Thanksgiving.  How put out were you that they were doing that?  Do you feel personally affronted by it? Further, would you expect them to tone down the celebrations as to not be “in your face”, showing you how inclusive they are and sensitive to the fact you came from a country where such things are not celebrated?

Can you see now how dangerous people like Susan Devoy are?


– John Roughan, NZ Herald

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