Shortly after the Christchurch terror attacks, as Farida Sultana, a Bangladeshi-born Kiwi Muslim, drove through her West Auckland neighbourhood, she had to pull over, overcome with emotion.

She'd just driven past her local Rānui community market, which had a big sign out front reading: "Assalaamu alaikum".

The Arabic greeting, meaning "peace be upon you", was a "small initiative, but it meant a lot", Sultana said.

Promoting such gestures, alongside Government and community-level action, are the focus of a conference in Auckland this Friday: Let's Deal With It! A Trans-Tasman Conference Towards Racial Harmony, which seeks to keep the post-Christchurch dialogue going.


While those attacks on two mosques that left 51 Muslim worshippers dead led to a national discussion about racism and discrimination, reports of hate crimes have continued.

In Sandringham, Auckland, just a week ago, a man who had emigrated from India two years ago thinking New Zealand was "the safest place in the world" was chased down in a car by three men and beaten, while being subjected to racial slurs.

White supremacist flyers have been delivered to households across the country.

Farida Sultana, founder of non-profit organisation Shakti, says we all need to do our bit to create a more inclusive society. Photo / Supplied
Farida Sultana, founder of non-profit organisation Shakti, says we all need to do our bit to create a more inclusive society. Photo / Supplied

And Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has revealed she has been assigned a security detail - the only MP besides the Prime Minister - after threats on her life were revealed in a Newshub investigation.

Organised by Sultana's non-profit organisation Shakti, which assists migrant women and families, conference attendees will hear from Ghahraman, alongside Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziell, other New Zealand politicians from both sides of the political divide, Australian senators, affected communities, non-governmental organisations, academics and media representatives.

Sultana, who moved to New Zealand in 1995, said the Christchurch attack showed our little corner of the world is not as sheltered as we previously thought.

"We think we are so far away from everything, but what happens around the world affects us.

"We need dialogue between our different communities, promote harmony, education, or else we will never bridge the gaps, and that is how radicalism and extremism grows.


"If you don't know about different communities, you can only make assumptions."

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Muslim communities across the globe had found themselves under increasing scrutiny, which often boiled over into discrimination and even abuse, said Sultana.

Meanwhile, those who were targeting Muslim communities, including white supremacists, escaped the same scrutiny.

Sultana, who had been working with New Zealand and Australia's migrant and refugee communities for more than 25 years, supported moves to create hate speech laws and a register of hate crimes.

But she said the onus fell on all of us to be more embracing and proactive in countering discrimination.

"A lot of people in migrant and minority communities who experience these attacks or discrimination either don't know how, or don't feel comfortable reporting them.

"There is a feeling of not wanting to rock the boat. Sometimes people who complain get told its not their country, it all has an effect.

"We can't go back to fix things, but going forward we need to create awareness at every level, from government to councils and local boards, right down to the community."

Sultana said it was heartening how the country had responded to the Christchurch attacks, with many Kiwis who had never visited mosques before flocking to the holy spaces to show solidarity.

"I think people have become more open to having conversations about discrimination, since the attacks, people seeing each other as human."

Shakti had supported 13 of the families affected by the attacks with the loss of a husband, son, and in some cases both.

"The massacre that took place in Christchurch is heart-breaking, and those families, and even those working with them, are still suffering. But it has created an important space to have dialogue."

Sultana said the aim of the conference was to create a safe platform to have an open dialogue.

"Because we are different, but we are one."

Australian representatives were invited because they faced similar issues there, and it was where the alleged Christchurch terrorist was born, Sultana said.

"We will focus on raising awareness of the existing socio-political dimensions, the political processes adopted in New Zealand and Australia, and examine what needs to happen to promote active citizenship and healthy integration of immigrant communities within the wider communities."

The conference takes place this Friday, June 14, at Mt Eden War Memorial Hall from 9am to 5pm.

Attendees need to register by emailing