Standing and Learning Together on the Anniversary of the Christchurch Mosque Attacks

Mural by Wellington artist Rowena Fry created to mark the anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

On the second anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO Chair, Robyn Baker, and Special Advisor Youth, Shahin Najak, reflect on the impact that day has had on Aotearoa New Zealand and how it has impacted the National Commission’s work.

“On March 15, 2021 we recall the terrorist attacks on Christchurch mosques two years ago and the lives, families and communities that have been forever changed,” says Robyn.

In late 2019, the National Commission held a Youth Diversity Forum to support discussions around racism, education and spirituality. One of the outcomes of this forum was a youth declaration which called for action at individual, community and organisational levels. This call for action was a challenge taken on by the diverse youth leaders present at the forum.

“The Declaration echoes UNESCO’s founding belief in the importance of achieving peace through dialogue and recognition of the value of intercultural dialogue to enable more inclusive societies. In 2019, UNESCO was the first UN agency to support the Christchurch Call, aimed at eliminating terrorist and violent extremist content online”, says Robyn.

The National Commission  is committed to supporting diversity and social inclusion in Aotearoa New Zealand and ensuring that responsible online behaviour is enhanced, particularly in relation to misinformation and hate speech.

“On the second anniversary of the attacks, let us remember to stand together, learn together, work together and support each other to speak up about racism and intolerance. Together we can foster a culture that refuses to tolerate such activities in any shape or form. Together we can also support a society in Aotearoa/ New Zealand that values diversity, kindness and compassion,” concludes Robyn.

“The devastating terrorist attacks on our Muslim community has profoundly impacted our nation, communities and people. As we stand together to remember those who lost their lives and acknowledge those affected – whanau, survivors and witnesses, the voices of our future speak out,” says Shahin.

“Youth have a crucial role to play and have the potential to lead this dialogue. That day the New Zealand Muslim community gained 5 million allies, if not more. So, we invite you to keep asking yourself the tough questions and keep having difficult conversations. And when you are ready to share your journey, we’ll be here, eager to listen.

“We recall the founding vision of UNESCO is to construct peace in the minds of all people.  In response to the attacks, it was noted that when we talk about whānaungataunga, we all need to connect first of all and then we manaakitanga – we look after each other and respect each other.

“Today, we call on all New Zealand to connect and look after each other and respect the diversity of our nation,” says Shahin.

This week our youth leaders reflect on how March 15 has impacted on them personally and the importance of activism. They pick up the challenge laid out in the Youth Declaration Call For Action which calls for individual as well as community and institutional change.  We will be posting further personal reflections from our Muslim Youth Leaders here during the week.