Open­ing arms to all

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion -

“They are us.” Per­haps th­ese three words spo­ken by Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern af­ter Fri­day’s ter­ror­ist at­tack in Christchur­ch best de­scribe the sol­i­dar­ity that has been the one pos­i­tive to emerge from this ter­ri­ble tragedy.

The na­tion­wide out­pour­ing of con­do­lences, love and sup­port for the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies has de­fined us as a na­tion. We should be proud of the pro­gres­sive lead­er­ship we are show­ing to the world at a time when some in­ter­na­tional lead­ers seek to di­vide rather than unite.

I com­mend and thank peo­ple in the Far North who have do­nated money to those af­fected by the mosque shoot­ings or taken to so­cial me­dia to send mes­sages of sup­port. I also want to ac­knowl­edge deputy mayor Ta­nia McInnes, Whangarei mayor Sh­eryl Mai, North­land Re­gional Coun­cil chair­man Bill Shep­herd and Kaipara mayor Dr Ja­son Smith who have reached out to North­land’s Mus­lim com­mu­nity and or­gan­ised meet­ings and of­fered sup­port.

The Far North Dis­trict doesn’t have a large Mus­lim com­mu­nity. How­ever, more than 15 per cent of peo­ple in the dis­trict were born over­seas and many of those are from nonChris­tian coun­tries. Th­ese peo­ple have cho­sen to make New Zea­land their home and it is their home.

One of the priv­i­leges of be­ing mayor is to of­fi­ci­ate at cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies and wit­ness peo­ple of all colours and creeds pledge al­le­giance to our Queen and the laws of our coun­try. Many of our new Ki­wis have cho­sen to make New Zea­land their home be­cause it is a peace­ful, tol­er­ant na­tion that wel­comes peo­ple of dif­fer­ent races and reli­gion. Hear­ing their life sto­ries is to be re­minded that the real story of hu­man­ity is about shared be­liefs and val­ues, not dif­fer­ences and oth­er­ness.

We can’t bring back the Ki­wis who died in Christchur­ch, but we can make their deaths mean­ing­ful by pledg­ing to de­fend the val­ues that made them choose New Zea­land as their home.

We must cel­e­brate diver­sity not fear it.

We must em­brace dif­fer­ence not re­ject it and we must con­front hate and prej­u­dice in all their forms.

New Zea­land has of­ten led the world in its quest for so­cial jus­tice. We can do so again by mod­el­ling Kiwi val­ues of in­clu­sive­ness and tol­er­ance in our words and our ac­tions. I en­cour­age peo­ple in the Far North to think about lit­tle things they can do to make our mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties feel more wel­come and ac­cepted, so they re­ally feel like New Zea­land is their home and they are one of us.

"New Zea­land has of­ten led the world in its quest for so­cial jus­tice. We can do so again by mod­el­ling Kiwi val­ues of in­clu­sive­ness and tol­er­ance in our words and our ac­tions."

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