Opening arms to all
“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."