It is interesting to note that ever since Bill English has become the Prime Minister of this country earlier this year, morality and religion have become important factors in New Zealand’s political space.
The latest and the most vocal instance where religion has been invoked in some way to achieve desired support from the Bill English led National government, is the Unitary Church’s offer for a symbolic sanctuary to the embattled Indian students facing deportation notice from the Immigration New Zealand (INZ).
The earliest instance was when Mr English had to clarify his position on the issue of same-sex marriage immediately after being declared as National Party leader to succeed former Prime Minister John Key.
Since then there is a marked increase, if not an undoubted increase in the invocation of religion within New Zealand’s political space.
Undoubtedly, there is no denying the fact that the case of eight Indian students seeking ministerial intervention to overturn their deportation notice have some merit in at least seeking a favourable ministerial intervention.
It is equally important to take note of the visible role of morality and religion in the political scene, which for now seems to be an outcome of Mr English’s public views on religion.
Mr English is known to be a social conservative from a rural background who is a devoted and practising Roman Catholic.
According to Unite senior organiser Joe Carolan, the latest move was intended to “embarrass Prime Minister Bill English, who is himself Catholic, into taking pity on the students.”
The developments on Wednesday, February 15 clearly suggest that this move of seeking sanctuary in the church has brought some confusion, if not an embarrassment of any kind for the government authorities as originally intended by the organisers.
The compliance team of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) had picked up one student from his home, while being away from the church and had begun preparations to send him away from New Zealand.
However, student’s lawyer was later informed by the INZ compliance team manager that they do not intend to enter into the church to forcefully execute deportation notice – a fact later confirmed by the Immigration Minister himself.
The Immigration Minister had said that it's unlikely that arrests will be made while the Indian students on fraudulent documents are holed up in a church.
"This is a place of religion, a house of God, and I don't think it's appropriate that people get wrestled to the ground and taken out in a church,” Mr Woodhouse said.
For this day and age in the twenty-first century, such confusion is not common if not completely unusual.
It would be interesting to see how state and church will eventually resolve the current standoff.
Meanwhile, students can continue to hold their New Zealand dream for some more time, although it’s not clear what they aim to achieve from this situation if they have to remain holed inside the church to avoid a forceful eviction from New Zealand.