FROM PARLIAMENT

On Friday March 15 a terrible injustice was wrought upon the Muslim community of Christchurch. While they knelt in prayer in the posture of peace their lives were taken.

On one level this was a sentinel tragedy, our own 9/11 if you will, and in our story telling we will replay the events of that day.

I spent the early evening hours after the attack in contact with my Wellington team, keeping up to date with news bulletins, reaching out to local ethnic groups.

At 10pm I drove to the mosque in Porowini Ave just as armed police were setting up and thanked them for their efforts. There was no one else there but over the next few days that would change.

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On Saturday morning I was out supporting the city, starting with a visit to the Growers Market where the mood was sombre. Many people wanted to talk most still in disbelief. During the day on Saturday I visited some of our local ethnic spokespeople and prepared for the vigil the following day.

Late in the afternoon on Sunday I joined thousands of local people in a moving vigil in Laurie Hall Park.

People at a vigil in Paihia last Sunday for victims of the Christchurch shootings. Photo/Peter de Graaf
People at a vigil in Paihia last Sunday for victims of the Christchurch shootings. Photo/Peter de Graaf

When I spoke I offered our support for the people of Christchurch, support for the Muslim community and recognised the support that we were all needing from each other.

I noted that during the day people had talked to me about Friday being the day that we lost our innocence as a country.

I observed that in my view we had already lost our innocence with the Rainbow Warrior and other travesties of modern times and that what was also a victim here was trust. The trust that used to let our children walk home from school alone, the trust that left our doors unlocked, the trust that let us pray in safety and I mourned for that trust.

I promised those present that when the house of parliament restarted and MPs were asked to stand in silence, that I would stand on behalf of the Whangārei electorate and together we would stand with other New Zealanders.

On Tuesday afternoon I stood with the list MP for Christchurch immediately to my right, the MP for Wairarapa to my left, and the MP for Bay of Plenty directly in front and along with all other MPs, in silence and as one parliament, we showed our respect and solidarity.

There was a solemn eeriness as the chant from the Imam peeled across the debating chamber haunting yet also beckoning. I understood it to be a prayer but I simply could not close my eyes, transfixed by the solemnity of the moment and the cadence and melody of the chant.

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We will be shaped by this but we will not be beaten. The people of Whangārei have stood with other New Zealanders and sent a signal that the hands of prejudice and intolerance have no place in our society.

* Dr Shane Reti is MP for Whangārei.