Lyttelton resident John Milne, who lost his 14-year-old son Sayyad in the mosque terror attack. (Photo: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)

As aroha ripples across NZ, let us pledge never to go back to the way we were

I have been encouraged by those who have started to reflect. I hope we can take that love, and can learn to listen, writes Marama Davidson

On Friday I went to the Masjid Al-Maktoum to share the nationwide two-minute silence with other New Zealanders. It was beautiful, and sad, and loving.

Some people arrived in shorts and singlets and jandals as if they had just needed to pop in and be with others while they were out and about. Some non-Muslim women wore headscarves in solidarity. Some people came in their heavy-duty work overalls. Some arrived with their gang patches. Some people came wearing their (non-Muslim) religious denomination clothing. Some came in their school uniform. Others had made an effort to dress modestly.

People just came.

And every single person was made to feel welcome and loved by the mosque, no matter what they were wearing.

Our Muslim hosts were at pains to ensure people could find shade, that people could sit who needed to sit, that we were given water and food. They wanted us all to feel included because they sensed that for some, it was awkward and we just didn’t know what to do.

Every single person that had come had done so in good faith and with love in their hearts for the tragedy that took our country’s breath away.

I know that this was true of the mosques hosting New Zealanders all around the country. I’ve seen countless stories of mosques welcoming us all, in our desire to share grief, with open arms. What an absolute testament the leadership of the Muslim community. I hope one day we deserve you.

And I am fiercely holding on to the nation’s love, as a sign that we can work together, to never go back to the nation that we used to be. I found out this morning, that a Pākeha man asked a kura kaupapa group of kids to stop singing the anthem in te reo on Friday, while they were sharing their aroha and grief at a mosque. This kura had been visiting the mosque every day, with love and waiata.

We can be a land that does not foster this type of ignorance and racism. Tamariki should feel absolute pride in sharing their reo, especially when using it to build bridges with other communities. I know that the Muslim community have been nothing but grateful for all the tikanga that Māori have used to show aroha directly to them.

We need everyone – Pakeha, tangata whenua, Pacific, Asian and all communities of colour, people across all faith groups – to create a nation free of this fear of different languages and customs and world views. We have to share and connect and build relationships with each other. And with the love rippling around the country right now, I have been encouraged by those who have started to reflect, and are feeling an urge to help dismantle those oppressions. I hope we can take that love, and can learn to listen.

This racism, this bigotry, has always been us.

But it doesn’t have to be.


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