If New Zealanders are keen that peace should be the norm in other countries, they must first establish and promote peace at home in the first instance, Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy has said.
Speaking at the Diversity Forum organised by the Human Rights Commission at the Lincoln University in Christchurch on August 24, she said that just as every resident of this country had the right to protest, all New Zealanders also had the right to practice their faith without fear.
“While we mourn tragic conflicts overseas, we must honour their lives by standing up for peace at all costs. Every New Zealander should be able to attend services at their Mosques, Synagogues or Temples free from hate attacks. This is a basic and fundamental human right,” she said.
Awake at the Morgue
Dame Susan said that in the weeks following February 22nd 2011, families descended upon a makeshift morgue in Christchurch. Among them were Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysians, Thais, Israelis, Taiwanese, Irish, Turkish, South Korean and New Zealanders.
“In the unfolding tragedy, the Kai Tahu tribe did something incredibly important. The tikanga of Kai Tahu stayed with the dead until the last person was returned home. For several weeks, the Kai Tahu people remained at the temporary morgue with the dead. They never sought any publicity for this free service,” she said.
Dame Susan said that ten years ago, New Zealand’s Interfaith and ethnic communities stood united against intolerance and hate after anti-Semitic attacks on the graves of Jewish cemetery in Wellington.
“The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme was born, facilitated by the Human Rights Commission and with support across Government and from many communities.
“Ten years on, I am disappointed to report that some New Zealanders are still taking part in hate attacks on Jewish Kiwis. These are not unlike previous hate attacks on Muslim Kiwis. Human rights don’t just exist thousands of miles away. They begin at home, right here where we live,” she said.
Among the other speakers at the inaugural session were Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Police Commissioner Mike Bush and National Member of Parliament from Christchurch Central Nicky Wagner.