Rotary Meeting, 21 Mar 2019
Firstly – a minute’s silence.
I’m sure we’re all deeply shocked, saddened, dismayed by the brutal assault of an Australian citizen on people at prayer in mosques at Christchurch NZ Friday last week, 15 March 2019; a mass murder acknowledged as terrorism, resulting in the loss so far of 50 lives, including women and children, plus many physically injured, some very severely, as well as countless people whose lives have been horridly affected, traumatised, not only in Christchurch, but all around New Zealand, Australia, and the world.
Any kind of extremism is abhorrent. The vast majority of people anywhere in the world are not extremists and are as one against any kind of extremism or wholesale vilification of another group of people. To be a member of a vilified, vulnerable, highly visible minority group of people is very different
On Tuesday many of us attended a vigil at the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell in Nara Park, attended by some 3,000 people, to express our sorrow and empathy, especially for people of the Islamic faith in Christchurch, and to show our solidarity with all people around the world, especially the Islamic communities in mourning. We stand for harmony, inclusiveness, compassion, and values such as mateship and multiculturalism.
In recent days the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has shown the kind of compassion that all people deserve, from all quarters. Referring to the tragedy, she has stated emphatically on behalf of all New Zealanders: “This is not us”.
She typifies “The Christchurch Response”, read out at the vigil at Nara Park on Tuesday:
Our values provide a guiding light in our darkest hours.
We stand together in representing diversity and inclusion. They are us.
We stand together in kindness and compassion. They are us.
We stand with those who have been impacted by the attack in Christchurch. They are us.
We offer our thoughts and prayers.
Our values will not and cannot be shaken by the attack in Christchurch.
The attack in Christchurch is not who we are.
We reject and condemn the hatred and extremism behind the attack. It has no place in our communities.
Our communities will always welcome people who value peace and tolerance.
Our commitment to these values will always hold true.
They are us.
To the Islamic community of Christchurch in deep sorrow, to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand also in deep sorrow, to all people around the world who deplore this attack and any kind of extremism, I propose a toast to the recovery of Christchurch and all it truly represents – above all, compassion and a sense of unity, no matter what the adversity.