This is the speech delivered by Mayor Max Baxter on Sunday 17 March at the Candlelight Vigil held in light of the terrible events in Christchurch on Friday 15 March.
This is not who we are.
We have gathered here tonight unified, to pay our respects, show our sympathy and offer support to our Muslim families who have lost loved ones as a consequence of the abhorrent attack on the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch on Friday afternoon.
We witness atrocities via media occuring almost daily somewhere in the world and always consider it to be an act that is confined to troubled countries. Countries with extreme and conflicting views, histories of sectarian violence, racial conflict, dictatorships, atrocities that are so far removed from Aotearoa New Zealand that in our minds we were safe. The very reason why this individual chose us as his target.
I have heard that our national security had taken its eye off the ball and this man should have been on a watch list. I disagree, we as a nation have taken our eye off what is our biggest threat. The biggest threat to New Zealand are the views within our own shores, the racist, biggoted views this man held, that unfortunately are held by others in our country. Islamaphobia is real and unfortunately these men, women and children who in their place of worship had there lives taken. As New Zealand citizens, refugees and visitors to our shores they should have been safe and protected, they should have been free to pray and go about their lives free of bigotry, in a safe place.
For us all here tonight we have been stunned, but the reality is we will carry on and in time the horrendous activities of Friday will fade. 50 men women and children died while as many are being cared for in our hospitals as I speak. This memory will not fade for those who are family, those who are friends and for those who have witnessed, helped and supported during this time.
I do acknowledge that we all deal with grief in our own way. I have received messages of sympathy from America, Africa and Indonesia. I have also expressed my sympathy and the sympathies of the people of Otorohanga to the Christchurch Mayor. As a country we are grieving because we have lost something special, the purity of a nation, our innocence which is somewhat unique in todays world. So please look over your fence and check on your neighbour and dont be afraid to ask if everything is ok. Love and compassion are special and should be shared with those around you.
As kiwis we must learn from Friday. Do not judge by the colour of ones skin. Do not judge by ones religion. Judge by what is inside. Do not accept the voice of those who hold biggoted and racist views. Make a stand against them. I am sure every one here tonight can make that positive step and embrace others for who they truley are, as often opinions are formed by the voice of the extreme. Let us return to the safe place we want to be.
In closing I wish to share a post many of you will have already read.
A muslim, a jew, a christian, a pagan and an atheist all walk in to a coffee shop...
and they talk, laugh, drink coffee and become good friends. It’s not a joke, this should be the norm.
Nga mihi nui, kia kaha Otorohanga