It is very hard to find words even now to express the shock, disbelief and upset that all New Zealanders, including my colleagues in Parliament and myself, experienced, as we heard the details of the terrible terrorist attacks on the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue and then the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch as they unfolded, on New Zealand’s darkest day Friday 15 March.
The news of the tragic loss of 50 lives from the deliberate acts of one man was chilling and sickening. These needless deaths shattered the lives of 50 families and their friends and colleagues and it brought tears and overwhelming sadness to us.
I am so proud of the New Zealand Police for their wonderful acts of bravery that stopped any further murders. The bravery of many others who saved lives as first responders in and around the Mosques on Friday 15 March was outstanding.
New Zealanders of all faiths and beliefs have quickly recognised that our citizens that were killed in the Mosques in Christchurch are us, and we grieve for our loss. They were hardworking people who made a solid, loving, friendly contribution to their families, their communities and their country New Zealand.
We have lost parents, children, grandparents, relatives and friends who cannot be replaced and we grieve for the whole population of Christchurch who once again face enormous sorrow and loss that was totally unexpected and is totally irreversible.
We must learn from this and be glad that responsible gun owners are already handing in their guns to Police. Responsible companies like Hunting and Fishing New Zealand and Trademe have stopped selling semi-automatics ahead of the changes to gun laws that Parliament collectively will support.
We need our Government to act wisely, decisively and quickly to change our laws including banning Military Style SemiAutomatic weapons. We must, as Parliament, take decisive action regarding large magazine semi-automatics, similar to Australia’s actions under the leadership of John Howard.
Finally, we must take on the challenge to stop mindless hatred towards others and careless racist remarks whether made on-line or in casual conversation. In New Zealand in particular we are a people of 220 ethnicities and many religions and we all need to promote our way of life which is free from fear and provides opportunities to succeed and thrive for all our people.
I join with all of you who have donated to the Givealittle pages, attended vigils and services, left flowers and messages and other simple acts of kindness, in heartfelt prayers and sympathy to all who are personally affected by this terrible tragedy - to the victims, those who suffer terrible injuries and those who mourn those they have lost. And to all those living in Christchurch Kia Kaha.
ANZAC Day is a sacred day of commemoration that began to take shape very soon after the reports of the landings at Gallipoli started to filter through to New Zealand. The first recognition of the landings took place on 30 April 1915 with a half-holiday. There was no military victory but there was recognition of the victory of the spirit as the stories of New Zealand soldiers’ courage in the face of adversity and sacrifice become known.
ANZAC Day commemorations became public services because that allowed returned service people to stand together to remember their comrades and particularly those thousands who did not return from the fields of war.
The ANZAC Ceremony is rich in tradition and ritual with the Dawn Service being a form of military funeral beginning with a march by Returned Service personnel to the local war memorial and the service is usually conducted by an army chaplain.
Since the 1980’s ANZAC Day has become more important to a new generation of New Zealanders who as well as remembering parents and grandparents, now mark what many consider to be the founding of a distinct New Zealand identity and it is recognised that this began at Gallipoli. Today many thousands of New Zealand’s youth travel to Gallipoli to attend the services held there alongside their Australian and Turkish counterparts.
I am grateful that Anzac Day continues to be observed reverently and I hope that many hundreds of years from now the Day will still be marked and will have its traditional commemorative function kept – Lest we forget.
My best wishes to all at this time.