May I thank the Islamic Women’s Council (IWCNZ) and the National Sisterhood Assembly for two things: inviting me to participate this morning and secondly for persevering with the conference when it had to be postponed.
It has been a challenging time with COVID-19, but I for one am so grateful to be part of the team of 5 million that has allowed us to meet today.
There are so many places in the world where this event simply would not be possible at this time.
The fact that this Conference was delayed until now has ended up giving it extra meaning, coinciding as it does with the release of the Royal Commission Report on the Terrorist Attack of the 19th March last year.
It has been a hard read. The two chapters I have focused on as a city Mayor is first, what the community had to say to the Royal Commission. And the second was the one that spoke to social cohesion and embracing diversity.
I attended a workshop yesterday that was discussing the kind of place we want Greater Christchurch to be in 2050.
A young Pacifica student addressed us about what life was like for him as one of around 60 Pacifica students in a school of 2000 and the challenges he had faced - born here but not belonging here.
Without telling the organisers, he had decided to share his time with a young Muslim woman because he felt she had a story that needed to be heard.
She talked about how she wanted that place Greater Christchurch in 2050 to be safe – her words were full of emotion as she spoke from the heart about what that meant to her – not to feel like she is saying goodbye to her brother for the last time every Friday when he goes to the mosque. It was a powerful message. The standing ovation from those in attendance represented the impact she had had.
In line with the theme of your Conference, Empower, I would say she had been empowered to have her voice heard.
But the point I want to make today is that the power was within her. She didn’t need someone’s authority or permission to hold that power. The act of empowerment was simply the offering of a place to stand, a platform for her voice to be heard.
And that is what a city can do for all its residents as we take on the challenges presented by the experience of prejudice and discrimination that were laid bare in the Royal Commission Inquiry Report.
We can provide a place to stand and a platform to be heard.
Social cohesion, inclusion and diversity are words that must be given true meaning and life.
There is no authority that can empower people with a sense of belonging. But if our public institutions offer confidence that they are there for everyone regardless of where we were born and who we are, our gender, the faith we practice, our sexual orientation – this is a strong foundation to build on.
That is why the Christchurch Multicultural Strategy that we adopted in 2017 is such an important platform for our city.
It has improved the way we work and engage with the diverse communities who call Otautahi Christchurch home.
But there is more to be done and we are absolutely committed to that.
I wish you well for today and for the holiday season ahead.