E te reo karanga- Ngai Tahu. Mihi mai, whakatau mai. Kei nga karangatanga maha. Kei nga iwi katoa, e hui nei “He maungarongo ki te whenua, e whakaaro pai ki nga tangata katoa”. Tēnā tātou e noho ngātahi, nei i raro i te korowai o te aroha me te rangimarie.
The calling voice – Ngai Tahu. Greet (us) welcome (us). To the many representatives, To all the people assembled here; “(May there be) Peace on earth and goodwill to all men”. Greetings to us all gathered here together under the cloak of love and peace.
A salaam aleikum.
A year ago today, the attack on the El Noor and Linwood mosques took 51 lives, injured many others, and left families and communities suffering. The impact on all New Zealanders was profound.
We stood together as a nation in shock. How could something so cruel and heartless happen here? We were horrified by the violence and hatred. We grieved for the lives lost, and for the suffering of the wounded and the bereaved.
We were stunned by accounts of extraordinary bravery and by the expression of forgiveness from members of the Muslim community.
People instinctively reached out to each other. I saw unquestioning embrace of the Muslim community in New Zealand by people of all faiths and those of no faith.
People gathered together – we felt scared and vulnerable, and yet there was something stronger driving us – the need to be with each other.
And the determination to say “No. This is not who we are.”
In the weeks that followed, New Zealanders spoke up about the racism that they had experienced in their communities. We talked about what ‘doing better’ would look like.
That conversation must continue. We can’t afford for it to stop.
As we work to ‘do better’, we can all be inspired by the grace and generosity expressed by the Muslim community at last year’s memorial service – and we can be guided by the whakatauki
Aroha mai, aroha atu – love received is love returned.
In other words, it’s our duty to love one another, to show mutual respect, to treat each other as we would like to be treated ourselves.
Aroha and manaakitanga are not selective.
They aren’t withheld from people who come from different faiths and backgrounds.
They bridge divides and connect us.
The aroha and manaakitanga shown in the aftermath of last year’s attack must be part of how we live every day, because our unity and strength as a nation depends on the well being of our people, their ability to connect with one another, and look after each other.
If our children are raised to embrace difference and build friendships with children from another culture, then we have a solid basis for the society that we aspire to be.
If we can continue those connections in adulthood, and remain open and welcoming, then we can counter the ignorance and fear that leads people away from community and away from aroha.
Racist behaviour is illogical and inhumane. It can start from casual comments and grow into ugly prejudice, discrimination and violence. We each have a responsibility to stand against racism. To call it out. To say “That is not who we are”.
Every New Zealander deserves their place in the sun, to flourish and develop their potential, to feel safe and secure in their distinctive cultural identities, with the freedom to practise their faith.
Today while you reflect on the loss and sadness of last year, I encourage all New Zealanders to remember the aroha and manaakitanga that flowed from that hurt.
Today we can recommit to do what we can to uphold the society that we want, so that every one of us, no matter what our background, can live in peace and dignity.
At last year’s national remembrance service, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) shared a message of hope with his song “Peace Train”.
We can share his belief that there are indeed good things to come, and that we can – with aroha and manaakitanga – make them happen.
Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui huihui tātou katoa.