[Pictured: Al-Madinah School students with their wonderful signs at the commemoration held on Wednesday 20th March]
Al Salam Alaikum – peace be upon you, is a Muslim greeting that has blessed and opened many vigils across New Zealand. Before March 15th, it was a greeting spoken among our Muslim communities as a sign of respect to one another. Over the last few days, it has been spoken by all community leaders across our diverse nation. It is a greeting that is inclusive and has welcomed us into spaces made safe by us all to mourn and commemorate the lives of those taken.
As news of the attack came through various media networks and social media, our organisation reacted as any would by connecting with and sending prayers to our Board Member Terekino Vaireka based in Christchurch, and through him our Cook Islands Christchurch community. It wasn’t until later that evening that we came to learn that it was a targeted attack on our Muslim brothers and sisters in a place they felt safe, their place of worship – their mosque temples. As with many across New Zealand and the world, our hearts mourned not just the lives taken, and the families affected, but those who had migrated here on the premise that they would be safe from acts of terror.
I reflect on our Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s words to the families affected by this tragedy “we cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage. We can. And we will, surround you with aroha, manaakitanga and all that makes us, us. Our hearts are heavy, but our spirit is strong.”
The way that we react to tragedy is determined by those in leadership. Jacinda’s words were prophetic in that following the days after the shooting, we as a country have united to surround our Muslim community with love, kindness, generosity, support and respect. In speaking Al Salam Alaikum, we choose to stand in solidarity with our Muslim community because “we are them, and they are us.”
Despite what has happened, our Muslim communities have held strong and continue to open their arms and their doors to us all. If you would like to pay your respects to them, this Friday 22 March mosques across Auckland will open their doors to the public, their holiest day of the week. We can learn a lot from our Muslim communities.
With our utmost respect, we will be donating to the Christchurch families on behalf of the Cook Islands community we serve. If you’d like to do the same, here is the link to the donation page: https://bit.ly/2USm9lj. With this, we also send our love, prayers and condolences to the families affected.
Ko te Atua to tatou akapu’anga e te maroiroi i te tauturu vaiata roa ia, me rokoia e tumatatenga – Salamo 46:1
God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
Meitaki Ma’ata, Henry Herman