Auckland’s Muslim community, the largest in the country, gathered at Masjid-E-Umar (the biggest Mosque in New Zealand) at a special meeting on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at its precincts to pay its tribute to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her compassion and leadership in handling the tragedy in Christchurch.
More than 1000 men and women attended the meeting, among who were Ms Ardern, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Mt Roskill elected MP (Labour) Michael Wood, National List MPs Dr Parmjeet Parmar and Melissa Lee, Masjid-E-Umar Trust Chairman Ahemad Bhamji and Imam Mohamed Patel.
A terrorist attack on March 15, 2019 at two Mosques in the Garden City killed 50 men, women and children and injured another 50 people, many of who are still under treatment. Some of them continue to be in a critical condition.
‘They are Us’
Ms Ardern is being acclaimed all over the world for reaching out to the Muslim community and mourning with them in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. Her speeches were noted for their love and care, offering solace and comfort to the victims of the families affected by the massacre and by the Muslim community in general.
Soon after the shootings occurred, she said that there was no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme violence.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Clearly, what has happened is an extraordinary and unprecedented acts of violence. Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting will be migrants, they will be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who perpetuated this violence against us is not; they have no place in New Zealand,” she said.
Mr Bhamji paid rich tributes to Ms Arden on behalf of his community at the special meeting today.
In a voice choked with emotion, he said that what happened in Christchurch on March 15, 2019 was horrendous, despicable and soul-destroying, not only for the Muslim community but also for all New Zealanders.
“Yet, immediately after, and to-date, the wide range of caring, uplifting, embracing and inclusive responses from our people, from all sections of people in New Zealand, including the youth in particular, have been truly remarkable and extraordinary,” he said.
Mr Bhamji said that the community acknowledges the immediate actions of the Prime Minister with great appreciation and gratitude.
Three Priceless Words
“Her statement, ‘They are us,’ represent three priceless words of great substance that all of us will cherish. The people of New Zealand, regardless of their religious faiths and beliefs, have demonstrated that we share collective mutual interests and a common identity. I say this because I am a Muslim and I am an immigrant, originating from Fiji. But in the wake of all the developments that have unfolded since last Friday (March 15), I have come to really and truly appreciate the meaning of being a New Zealander; and I celebrate that, at a time like this,” he said.
Mr Bhamji urged leaders of the New Zealand Muslim community and other organisations to “categorically reject any calls for revenge and retaliation.”
“We must take a robust, unwavering and collective stance against the calls such as those made by ISIS and others. This, to compellingly demonstrate that we New Zealanders, including Muslims in this country, hold dearly to the values of goodwill, tolerance and peace amongst our diverse communities in New Zealand,” he said.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Mt Roskill MP Michael Wood spoke of the oneness and solidarity of New Zealanders and assured the Muslim community of their support and services at all times.
They also praised the humane and determined approach of Ms Ardern in handling the difficult situation arising out of the massacre in Christchurch.
Imam Mohamed Patel also praised Ms Ardern in his Prayer and speech.
Prime Minister Ardern said that by the Muslim community has shown its hospitality towards all New Zealanders by opening the Mosques throughout the country ‘and allowing us to be with them,’ at a time when it would be completely justified to close the doors and lock the gates.
“You did the exact opposite and on behalf of New Zealand, we thank you for that. When I looked out and saw the gathering of New Zealanders today, I remember that we are a Nation of 220 ethnicities speaking 160 languages, from all walks of life, from different religions, different ages; you are a reflection of who we are as a Nation. And so, I am incredibly humbled to stand before you and see the act of solidarity from so many New Zealanders here,” she said.
Ms Arden said that what she had done was not about leadership but echoed the humanity of New Zealanders.
Tribute to Police
Paying a special tribute to the New Zealand Police, Ms Ardern said that every time she visited Christchurch during the past week to meet the members of the Muslim community, “they have asked their thanks to be passed on to the Police officers who were on duty on that horrific day.”
She said that during the past week, many world leaders had conveyed their condolences predominantly to the Muslim community and to all people of New Zealand.
“They have seen your outpouring. They have seen the flowers lined up on the streets; they have seen the haka performed,” she said.
Ms Ardern then read out parts the speech delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters at the Emergency Meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on the Christchurch terror attack in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday, March 22, 2019.
Earlier, students of Mount Roskill Grammar School and staff of Air New Zealand performed the haka.
On Tuesday (March 19, 2019), the New Zealand Parliament honoured the victims of the Christchurch terror attacks, opening the session with a Muslim prayer, while Churches have opened their doors to give Muslims a safe place to pray.
Wellington Indian Association President Nanubhai Ranchhod represented the New Zealand Indian Central Association at the Opening Session.