Last Friday, a hateful door was opened in our country that can never now be closed.  Extremism, brandishing assault weaponry, raged in through that door and mercilessly mowed down at least 50 innocent victims who were in peaceful prayer.  The enormity of the atrocity has left us numb, empty, and in disbelief.  We thought we were immune from such senseless violence in our safe and tolerant country.  We are not!

Our hearts and aroha go out to all those who have lost loved ones, the Muslim community, the people of Christchurch, and our Ara Institute of Canterbury members who were locked down until early Friday evening.

The light that shone through Friday’s darkness will always be remembered – The tremendous acts of bravery by our Police and Ambulance/medical first responders and, by the ordinary people who put themselves at risk to provide comfort and assistance to the victims.

As we grieve and heal, we must not lose sight of the fact that hateful extremism was behind this cowardly, murderous act and, the unpleasant reality is that some in our country share and support the views of the terrorist that perpetrated this vile act.  This has to stop now.  If there is one thing we can all do to ensure last Friday’s massacres are never repeated, it is this:  each one of us must stand up and challenge each time we see, hear or witness racist bullying, harassment and bigotry.  Challenge those attempts to treat others in this way – make it clear that their words and behaviour are absolutely unacceptable.

More than ever before, our Muslim communities need our loving support and friendship.  We can show them by our own words and actions that the country that they came to live in or escape from atrocity and fear elsewhere, or in which they too were born in, is not the country that the terrorist would have us create.

The values that we hold dear in Aotearoa, New Zealand, ensure that the worst times bring out the best in us.

In aroha and solidarity