Can I begin by acknowledging the 51 shuhada, their families, the injured, and all those who were witness to or affected by the terrorist attack of 15 March 2019.
I also acknowledge Members of Parliament, Ibrahim Omer and Sarah Pallet, as well as my colleague Cr Anne Galloway.
I acknowledge our local Muslim communities in Ōtautahi Christchurch, and all those who have joined us on the livestream.
And finally, can I also acknowledge the important collaboration between FIANZ, the Muslim Association of Canterbury, and the 15th March Whanau Trust that has brought us here today. Thank you for your work.
I am incredibly proud to be here as the Mayor of our city as we come up to the third anniversary of the 15th of March.
The reason that I am proud is because of the way the community has invited us all to reflect on that time in Love, Peace & Unity – Aroha, Rangimārie and Kotahitanga - values that bring meaning to and enrich all of our lives
Islamic Awareness Week, which is designed to showcase the real meaning and teachings of Islam, encourages us all to cultivate connectedness and a sense of community – that is kotahitanga in action.
When we, as a Council, placed a message on Facebook to say that we had heard from the community how you wanted to lead this year’s commemoration, with Islamic Awareness Week leading to the 15th March and a Unity Week leading from the 15th March, one of the messages we received back said this:
“I’m happy that the bereaved families have made their voices heard & been listened to. I don’t yet have the words apart from saying I am here & I stand with you.”
And that represents the feelings of so many people. The words ‘I am here & I stand with you’ somehow feel inadequate.
However, when we think about what they mean, they are powerful words, because they are literally what love, peace, and unity stand for. I am here & I stand with you.
When I reflect on that time three years ago, for me those words are reflected in the actions of those who turned up for the Call to Prayer one week after the attack.
The wider community wasn’t asked to come – they just came – in their thousands. It was the most powerful expression of solidarity I have ever witnessed. We could all feel it.
I am here – says I am present, I empathise with you, I recognise your humanity and I love you as a brother or a sister - and I stand with you – says I support you, I will walk alongside you and defend you, I have got your back.
And we heard the powerful words of the Imam, with Masjid An-Nur as a sombre backdrop –
"This terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology that has torn the world apart. But instead, we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable, and that the world can see in us an example of love and unity."
Remembering that time for peace, love, and unity, helps us all to remember what is important in life, even when we are confronted with the very worst of man’s inhumanity to man.
I want to thank the 15th March Whanau Trust, along with the other community-led groups that have formed as a result of what happened on that day, for your wisdom, your courage and your leadership.
Each of these groups has been born of tragedy, inspired by compassion and empowered by generosity.
And it is in the spirit of reciprocity that I acknowledge the work we all have to continue to do to keep the essence of that compassion alive.
Thank you again for inviting us to share this special occasion as you launch Islamic Awareness Week in Love, Peace and Unity.