COMMENT:

Last Friday, 50 innocent men, women and children were gunned down while at prayer at their mosques in Christchurch by a hate-filled individual for no reason other than they were Muslim.

For the Muslim community, this attack has left a heightened sense of insecurity and vulnerability.

For all of us there is a sense of shock and disbelief, we witnessed in our own country an act of terrorism which we thought could never happen here.

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The loss of life and the trauma suffered by families and the communities of the victims cannot be reversed. However, out of this tragedy we need to find positives that will help us go forward to be a better and stronger nation.

The first thing is not to let the actions of the pathetic and twisted individual who perpetrated the killings define our values as a people and a country.

This is the time to reaffirm our support for a multicultural and multifaith nation and city.
Our goal as a city is to be inclusive, to treat as equals and to treat with respect all people regardless of race, colour and creed.

As a city, we believe that diversity enriches and should not divide us. Look at how we celebrate Matariki, Polyfest and Pasifika, the Lantern Festival, Diwali and Eid al-Fitr.

Equally, it is a time to assert zero tolerance for racism. When people abuse, demean and ridicule Muslims or any other faith or ethnicity, we cannot be passive observers on the side lines.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meeting guests during her meeting with first responders in Christchurch. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meeting guests during her meeting with first responders in Christchurch. Photo / Mark Mitchell

We need to speak out against New Zealanders who peddle bigotry, prejudice and racism. They create the environment in which the killer in Christchurch felt vindicated in what he did.

Nor should we welcome or do anything to facilitate alt-right or any other extremist groups, including the Canadians who came here last year, to peddle their propaganda about race and faith.

In the coming days, it is important to provide reassurance and support to Muslim or other groups who feel they are targeted by racist individuals or groups. The outpouring of support and sympathy by New Zealanders so far has shown that overwhelmingly we are decent people committed to treating everyone fairly.

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Other changes will be needed. I am a registered firearms owner, and use firearms mainly for pest control on my farm. But I fully endorse proposals to ban military style semi-automatics, which allowed the Christchurch killer to take as many lives as he did.

There will always be people like him who will continue to pose a risk of mass killings unless weapons like this are no longer available to be used.

Social media will have to take steps to avoid individuals misusing live streaming to show off the murders they are committing while it happens. Wouldn't it be good also if people like this killer could have permanent name suppression and anonymity so that when convicted they would spend the rest of their lives in prison unknown and without the fame and celebrity status they craved and which motivated their actions.

Our love and sympathy goes to the victims and the communities of those who were killed and hopefully out of this tragedy, we can take steps to create a better and stronger nation.

• Phil Goff is Mayor of Auckland.