Ina ako tātau ki te mārama
ki te hua o te rerenga kāwanatanga,
ka mōhio tātau, kai te pakeke tātau.
Ko te aroha he huānga māia i roto i tēnā .
He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata He tangata He tangata
Tēnā tātou katoa.
When we learn to understand the richness in cultural diversity, we will know that we are maturing as a nation.
What is the most important thing in the world?
Compassion and respect for one another.
Today we have acknowledged seven different groups of people for their extraordinary and selfless acts of bravery.
The last of these groups is the city and citizens of Ōtautahi Christchurch. That makes many of you in this room recipients of this rare accolade.
This city and its citizens have the distinction of being the only people in Aotearoa to have received the Gold Bravery Award twice.
The first occasion was in 2012, following the catastrophic earthquakes here in Canterbury.
These medals acknowledge selfless acts of bravery – known, and unknown.
Unknown, because many individual actions in response to the terrorist attack have not received media attention – or been identified as a result of government investigation.
There were people within Masjid An-Nur and the Linwood Islamic Centre who acted to save their fellow worshippers;
There were neighbours or passers-by who provided urgent assistance or refuge; and
There were first responders who went above and beyond their duty in their efforts to save lives.
There will be other people in Christchurch – indeed in tonight’s audience – who committed selfless acts of bravery, but have not wanted to talk about them.
This medal is for them as well.
There are many of you who are still haunted by the loss and trauma of that tragic day.
This will be especially true if you lost loved ones, or were seriously injured or traumatised at Masjid An-Nur or the Linwood Islamic Centre.
On behalf of the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, I assure you that our hearts and aroha are with you.
When we describe actions as selfless acts of bravery, we acknowledge a determination to act in a way that is driven by compassion.
Compassion enables us to see the suffering of others and to do something about it.
Compassion was evident in Christchurch’s response to the March 15 terror attacks – not just on the day, but in the weeks and months that followed that dreadful event.
When tens of thousands of people joined with Muslims to mourn the loss of the Shuhada, we spoke as one voice, condemning hate and standing alongside those who had suffered.
Compassion prompted people from all walks of life to place flowers and messages against the wall of the Botanic Gardens, high school students to perform haka, and thousands of people to attend the call to prayer in Hagley Park.
The initiative being launched here this evening is another expression of that compassion, and draws on one of the world’s most widely accepted moral principles: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It’s what we tell our children when we teach them to understand the difference between right and wrong; it underpins our secular concepts of fairness and justice; and it is expressed as a fundamental tenet of the world’s great religions, including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Religious historian Karen Armstrong describes compassion as “the Golden Rule”, which asks us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain – and then refuse – under any circumstances whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else.
There is a growing consensus amongst evolutionary biologists, psychologists and neuroscientists that kindness is an innate part of what it means to be human.
We also know that a compassionate response triggers the release of nurturing hormones.
In other words, compassion fires up the body’s reward system to make us feel good.
We also feel good when we see someone else being compassionate, so we could describe compassion as being contagious – in the best possible way.
And that is the core of the Christchurch Invitation, Mahia Te Aroha – the initiative being launched this evening.
“Aroha” can be translated into English as both ‘love’ and ‘compassion’. ‘Mahia’ as ‘action’ or ‘task’
Mahia Te Aroha invites us to act with compassion.
Shortly, you will hear more about this initiative’s key principles, and how, through simple acts in our daily lives, we can show compassion.
At Ko Tātou Tātou – We Are One, the National Remembrance Service on 13th March this year, I spoke of how New Zealanders of all faiths and ethnicities recognised that we still had work to do to ensure that mindless prejudice and hate does not take root in Aotearoa New Zealand – and that merely hoping for that better future would not be enough.
The Christchurch Invitation responds to that challenge in a very purposeful way.
It asks us to draw on the compassionate response we expressed in March 2019, and show it in our daily interactions with everyone we
see around us: those we know, those we don’t, those who are similar, and those who are different.
When we treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves, when we extend manaakitanga to one another, we achieve a society which moves beyond tolerance to a state of genuine respect and acceptance, where everyone can live in safety, thrive and achieve their potential.
Kia ora, Kia kaha, Kia atawhai kātoa.