This initiative has its roots in aspirations toward a diverse and inclusive society. It has been developed by local Christchurch peacebuilder, Wayne Marriott. The strategy is not so much about selling signs to people. Moreover, it is about generating a conversation we need to have as a society about celebrating our diverse backgrounds, beliefs and social identity, regardless of where people are from. As more people become involved, the strategy is to create spaces for conversation and help people learn how to talk about racism, xenophobia and hate crime safely. It is no coincidence it is being launched now as it follows the violence of 15th March 2019 in Christchurch.
So, how does the strategy work?
This initiative works on several levels. People simply engage in the amount of activity they are comfortable contributing. It’s crucial that people choose to participate in the process of making a diverse and inclusive society as much or as little as they are comfortable. Over time, folk will find discussing hard topics easier as they increase skills in respectful discourse.
Display a sign outside your house to communicate with your neighbours that you want an inclusive, diverse and happy place to live.
Talk to your neighbours about why you have the sign. You might find it convenient to talk about it over coffee and cake. So, invite them over, dust off your Edmonds cookbook and get baking.
When the popularity of the sign has reached a critical mass in your community, people will naturally have further conversations about why it’s crucial to have an inclusive, diverse society for health and happiness. I can help you promote additional opportunities for groups of people to come together in a celebration of our differences.
In every community, there are leaders skilled in promoting diversity and inclusion. As the strategy grows, specialists will engage with those communities that strive for understanding, empathy and respect for one another. This phase of the plan can be funded by community partners such as not-government organisations, local, territorial authorities and central government. There may be private entities willing to come on board also.
The double-sided sign can be purchased from Wayne’s web site for $30 (inclusive of GST), plus postage and handling.
Why did Wayne start this initiative?
In 2018 he returned from the United States where he had spent three years studying conflict transformation and peacebuilding at the Eastern Mennonite University. During his time in Harrisonburg, there were ‘welcome neighbour’ signs on many front lawns and roadside verges. For a Kiwi so far from home, away from family, the signs were warm and welcoming. Once he returned to New Zealand, he wanted to begin the initiative in Christchurch and following the terror attacks of March 15, he felt compelled to communicate a message of respect, trust and peace in my community. In April 2019 he placed the first sign at his gate and encouraged others to participate with a few extras he produced. Having received support and positive feedback he decided to take the idea further. He produced my sign in Somali, English and Arabic out of respect of many of the people affected by the March violence.
“It is my personal message to everyone living in Christchurch that it is the simple things that create loving spaces. We can eliminate racism, one home at a time” (Wayne Marriott 2019).
The welcome neighbour's sign grew out of an idea from the Mennonite Church, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A pastor, Matthew Bucher, began the initiative to reach out to his neighbours and neighbourhoods, welcome those who come from different backgrounds and places and practice hospitality through the open doors of their communities. The display of the signs has spread across the United States. People are encouraged to join in welcoming the stranger, getting to know your neighbours, hosting and being hosted, reaching out across divides, providing shelter, seeking justice, and sharing the love with friend and stranger.
Installing the sign (is simple)
Simply unpack the sign from its packaging, taking care not to hurt yourself with the metal ends of the wire holder.
You can decide to display your sign however you wish. However, the double-sided sign is designed to sit on your grass verge. There the sign can be read in both directions and situated on the grass verge; your sign will stand out from all the other types of advertising on your street. Then push the metal spikes into the earth without bending the wire supports. Check that the stand is level and then carefully insert the corflute sign into the rings at the top of the wire stand. You will be able to easily remove the sign when you need to mow your grass verge.