New Zealand: Special Classes on the world’s major religions announced

The Religious Diversity Centre of Aotearoa New Zealand has announced the first Programme in its ‘Raising Religious Literacy’ series beginning on February 13, 2017 and concluding on December 14, 2017. The Classes will be offered over four terms in Auckland and Hamilton.


Auckland sessions will be held on Monday evenings and classes in Hamilton on Thursday evenings as per the schedule mentioned at the end of this report.

The Programme is based on the core theme of ‘Exploring the diverse belief traditions contributing to New Zealand society.’

Dr Todd Nachowitz

Dr Todd Nachowitz (Pictured) will conduct the classes in both cities.

He is a Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Waikato and Coordinator at the Religious Diversity Centre.

He is well-known to the people in the Waikato region and among the members of the Indian and South Asian communities for his fluency in Urdu and Hindi, apart from other languages. He is the Secretary of the Waikato Interfaith Council and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Raga Indian Classical Music Group based in Hamilton. He accompanies Indian classical music performers on the Tabla.

Terms and Subjects

Each Term in 2017 will have a different focus and cover different material.

Terms 1 and 2 will focus on Selected Topics in the Contemporary Practice of each of the major world religions, while Terms 3 and 4 will focus on the history and development of the world’s main faith traditions.

In the first half of the year, the classes will be on selected topics in comparative world religion, focusing on a different topic during each class and examining how each religion approaches that topic.

In the second half of the year, the attendees will have opportunities to explore the history and development of each of the world religions, focusing on the Eastern Traditions in Term 3 and the Western Traditions in Term 4.

A detailed syllabus will be available at the start of each Term.

Any Term can be taken independently of the others, and there are no prerequisites for any of the Term courses.

Course Details

Each Term will consist of 8 weekly classes, as follows:

Term 1: Selected Topics in World Religions: Week 1: Foundations and Founder Figures; Week 2: Sacred Texts; Week 3: Image and Iconography; Week 4: Prayer and Worship; Week 5: Sacred Time; Week 6: Sacred Music; Week 7: Sacred Spaces; and Week 8: Sacred Journeys and Pilgrimage.

Term 2: Selected Topics in World Religions: Week 1: Sacred Clothing; Week 2: Food and Ritual; Week 3: Birth and Coming of Age Ceremonies; Week 4: Marriage; Week 5: Asceticism and Renunciation; Week 6: Death and Dying; Week 7: Esoteric Traditions and Mystical Experiences; and Week 8: Religious Fundamentalism and Extremism.

Term 3: Eastern Religious Traditions: The earliest origins of religious behaviour, history and development of the Eastern Religious Traditions, Rise of the Indus Valley Civilisation and the Indian traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. This would be followed by a focus on the Chinese religious traditions (Folk religion, Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese Buddhism) and exploration of the Japanese religious traditions (Shinto, Shingon, Tendai, Nichiren and Zen Buddhism).

Term 4: Western Religious Traditions: This term will focus on the history and development of the Western belief traditions, including the Rise of Monotheism and the origins of religious belief in ancient Mesopotamia, including Zoroastrianism. This would be followed by a study of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other religious movements (such as the Bahá’í Faith), and the moral and ethical ideologies of Atheism, Agnosticism, Rationalism and Humanism.

Class Dates & Times:

Auckland: Classes will meet on Monday nights from 7:00-9:00pm, and will be held in the Religious Diversity Centre classrooms at the University of Otago House, 385 Queen Street, Auckland. Parking is available in the Wilson Car Park underneath the building.
Term 1 dates: Mondays 7-9 pm, beginning 13 Feb, ending 3 Apr 2017

Term 2 dates: Mondays 7-9 pm, beginning 8 May, ending 26 Jun 2017

Term 3 dates: Mondays 7-9 pm, beginning 31 Jul, ending 18 Sep 2017

Term 4 dates: Mondays 7-9 pm, beginning 23 Oct, ending 11 Dec 2017

Hamilton: Classes will meet on Thursday nights from 7-9 pm under the auspices of Fraser High School’s Adult and Community Education (ACE) Programme, and will be held at Fraser High School, 72 Ellicott Road, Hamilton. Free parking available at Fraser High.

Term 1 dates: Thurs 7-9pm, beginning 16 Feb, ending 6 Apr 2017

Term 2 dates: Thurs 7-9pm, beginning 11 May, ending 29 Jun 2017

Term 3 dates: Thurs 7-9pm, beginning 3 Aug, ending 21 Sep 2017

Term 4 dates: Thurs 7-9pm, beginning 26 Oct, ending 14 Dec 2017

Cost & Registration Information:

Auckland class (Monday evenings):

Waged: $95 per term course cost

Unwaged/Students/Seniors: $65 per term course cost

Registration for the Term 1 can be completed by emailing

Please bring a cheque made out to the ‘Religious Diversity Centre Trust’ to the first night of class. We are working to get a payment gateway and registration button up on this page but this may take a couple of weeks. When the payment buttons become available you will be able to register and pay for each Term course here. For now, we’ll stick with the old method!

Hamilton class (Thursday evenings):

A single registration fee of $70 (GST inclusive) applies.

Course details and on-line registration and payment can be made at Fraser High School’s Adult and Community Education (ACE) site at <