Global warming, domestic violence, Mercy values and freedom of speech were among the issues discussed at a Mercy Spiritual Centre forum on May 18. The centre’s Intergenerational Forum 2016 was set up with five tables, with one “middle aged” facilitator at each table of six or seven people.

Rules included no shouting, no interrupting — everybody’s opinion was important.

“I felt safe in the environment to share my opinion and really appreciated the opinion of the older people,” wrote one of the female students in her feedback form.

Beate Matthies, the manager of Te Ngakau Waiora Mercy Spirituality Centre, Auckland, and initiator of this event at the centre, greeted participants with a mihi in Māori and English, supported by a waiata led by students from Hato Petera Maori College, Northcote.

She said it was good to see young people explaining to some older participants what caused climate change. Two students, one from Baradene College, Remuera, and the other one from St Mary’s College, Ponsonby, made a drawing for the group and jointly explained what they had learned at school.

Schools, Age Concern members, diocesan groups and participants contributed with questions beforehand. Each participant had the opportunity to discuss four questions.

Some questions kept the participants so immersed in the discussions that it was hard for them to even take a break. The question that created a lively discussion arose from an article in NZ Catholic (April 3, 2016) in which Sr Joan Chittister, OP, was reported to have said that, “The right to freedom of speech does not include the right to libel, slander, and now bully people into submission, nor does it include a licence to abuse someone who is different from us”.

Many possible solutions for different issues were brought up. The overall conclusion, however, was to create awareness about the needs and the situation of other people — opening doors of mercy —and tackling problems before they become too big. The younger generation and the older generation working hand in hand!

One student commented afterwards: “It was super fun and the discussion was very thought provoking and I gained a lot of insight!”