You may have heard of the tragedy which has struck New Zealand. Two days ago, early in the afternoon of Friday March 15th, a gunman opened fire on Muslim worshipers who were praying in one of the central city mosques in Christchurch. He then drove to another mosque close by and shot more people who had also gathered for prayer. In all 49 people were killed, and 48 people were hospitalised. Another person died in hospital today, bringing the total so far to 50, and 36 remain in hospital.
While this act of terror has shocked our country, and the world, it is doubly cruel for the community of Christchurch. Just over eight years ago the city was devastated by strong earthquakes. The recovery process has been slow, but progress has been becoming more evident and the community has been healing. Now they have been rocked by terrible human actions instead of natural ones.
The shining light through these horrific events has been the wonderful community spirit shown by so many ordinary people. I am so proud to call myself a New Zealander and to witness the strength, compassion, kindness and outpouring of love that has been shown by so many. We have been wounded deeply as a nation, but we will stand strong and emerge as better people.
Several phrases have been shared on social media, two of which I would like to share with you here.
“This is not who we are! KIA KAHA CHRISTCHURCH” – the Maori phrase means “stand strong Christchurch”
“New Zealand is their home. THEY. ARE. US.”
The second phrase acknowledges that many of the victims were immigrants who had come to New Zealand seeking a safer life. This has been another aspect of the attack which has deeply affected us.
I want to finish by repeating again “Kia Kaha Christchurch”. We stand beside you once again.