Venkat Raman in Lautoka, Fiji
New Zealanders have shown empathy and solidarity following the Christchurch massacre in Christchurch on Friday, March 15, 2019 in which 51 Muslims were killed, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Paying tributes to the Muslim community at a special meeting organised at the Lautoka Jame Masjid in Lautoka on February 27, 2020, she said that with the first anniversary of the tragedy approaching (on March 15), she wanted to remember Imam Hafiz Musa Patel, Ashraf Ali Razat and Ashraf Ali, Fijian Muslims who were among those killed in the massacre.
“They were yours. And now they are part of us. Our love goes out to their family and friends, and to all of you, their Muslim brothers and sisters who have been left with painful memories to this day. While I will never know your pain, I carry with me many memories from that day, and the days that followed. I still recall visiting the hall where the day after the attack hundreds of members of the Muslim community gathered,” she said.
Strength of unity
Ms Ardern said that the disastrous attack gave the New Zealand government and New Zealanders the strength to know that the Muslim community stood in solidarity.
“When I attended a memorial service soon after the attacks, I felt lost for words – I had been so moved by the generosity of the Islamic faith. In this time of great pain, Mosques were opened by the community and we were met with a simple greeting: Assalam Alaikum (Peace be upon you).
“In the face of hate and violence, the Muslim community in New Zealand and around the world – had every right to express pain and to express anger. Instead they chose love. Instead they chose to open their hearts for all of us to grieve with them and with you,” she said.
Speaking of the deep-rooted connections between the Muslim communities in the two countries, Ms Ardern said that the relationship is stronger now than ever before.
She said that her government is committed to work to ensure that such malicious and racially and ideologically motivated attacks do not recur.
“Today, I want to talk about our commitment to eradicate the underlying drivers and ideology of such cowardly attacks. Our commitment to promoting the values that Fiji and New Zealand share – those of kindness and compassion. Championing those values must sit at core of our efforts to counter violent extremism,” she said.
Ms Ardern said that the terrorist attack in Christchurch exposed the weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws and hence her government we announced a ban on all military style semi-automatic weapons (like the one used in the attack), and removed them from the New Zealand communities. The country’s political parties were united in passing the law in Parliament.
“The attack was also designed to weaponise the internet, to capitalise on an underbelly of online racism and hate. I have said before: we cannot confront these sorts of issues alone, none of us can. And so we united,” she said.
Ms Ardern met the family of Hafiz Musa Patel, Ashraf Ali Razat and Ashraf Ali at the gathering. Earlier, she unveiled a plaque in memory of those who died. Among those present were Fiji Muslim League President Hafiz Khan, members of his Executive Committee and families and students of the Lautoka Muslim Primary School.
- Jacinda Ardern speaking at the Lautoka Mosque gathering (Facebook)
- Jacinda Ardern unveiling a plaque to commemorate the victims of Christchurch massacre (Facebook)
- Jacinda Ardern meets with Saira Bibi Patel, wife of Imam Hafiz Musa Patel who was killed in the Christchurch shooting on March 15, 2019 (Facebook)
- Fiji Muslim League President Hafiz Khan presenting a memento to Jacinda Ardern (Facebook)