Reassurance from councillors

An emotional Dunedin city councillor Aaron Hawkins (right) urges the community to tackle racism in all its forms, flanked by (from left) Cr Marie Laufiso and Cr Rachel Elder, at yesterday's Dunedin City Council meeting. Photo: Christine O'Connor
An emotional Dunedin city councillor Aaron Hawkins (right) urges the community to tackle racism in all its forms, flanked by (from left) Cr Marie Laufiso and Cr Rachel Elder, at yesterday's Dunedin City Council meeting. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Tears flowed as councillors expressed ''aroha'' for the Muslim community - and vowed to tackle racism head-on - at a special Dunedin City Council meeting yesterday.

Councillors, led by Mayor Dave Cull, took turns expressing horror at Friday's atrocity, in which 50 members of the Muslim community were killed and 50 more injured at two Christchurch mosques.

The meeting began with a prayer by the Rev Wayne Te Kaawa, the University of Otago's Maori chaplain, and a waiata, watched from the public gallery by members of Dunedin's Muslim community.

Mr Cull told the meeting he was ''outraged'' by the attacks, which targeted Muslims but assaulted the entire community.

And, in response, Mr Cull wanted to send a message ''to our Muslim brothers and sisters'' from the city.

''While the wider non-Muslim community did not suffer the attack and cannot feel the pain or loss or hurt that you do, nevertheless we are stricken to the core by this horror, and we stand with you in solidarity and aroha,'' he said.

''You are not a separate group of outsiders in our community. You are part of us. We are all one.

''We will face this trauma together.''

Other councillors also expressed their grief and utter rejection of racism in all forms, while calling for change to ensure there would be no repeat.

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes said he had ''shed quite a few tears'' for the country's lost innocence and its failure to keep the Muslim community safe.

But he also confessed to his own personal sense of guilt, after failing to call out a friend's regular racist comments in the past.

It was the kind of everyday racism that helped create a platform for hate, and led to events like those in Christchurch, he said.

Cr Aaron Hawkins, his voice cracking, said New Zealand needed to confront some dark truths.

Many people had said the attacks were not the New Zealand way, and should not change the country's way of life, he said.

''But sadly, this is us, and we have to change.''

The outpouring of love that had followed was remarkable, but only the easy part, Cr Hawkins said.

It would be meaningless unless society tackled the deeper causes for the atrocity - from white supremacy to systemic and everyday racism across New Zealand, he said.

Cr Jim O'Malley said the tragedy at least meant ''many New Zealanders had a chance to say something which they meant to say, but sadly they never got around to saying, which is to our Muslim brothers and sisters, to our fellow Kiwis: We love you''.

''I'm sorry it took us that long to say it.''

Cr Marie Laufiso began by singing a waiata calling for peace, before delivering a stark reminder about the country's long struggle with violence and racism.

''We need to learn from New Zealand history, because the acts of terror [in Christchurch] were not the first in this country.''

Others to speak were Crs Christine Garey, Andrew Whiley, David Benson-Pope, Damian Newell, Lee Vandervis and Rachel Elder, who read aloud the lyrics of a Sting song, Fragile.

Councillors then voted unanimously to express the council's abhorrence of events in Christchurch, sympathy for those killed and support for those left behind.

They also committed to ''zero tolerance'' for any form of discrimination or abuse and solidarity with ''our Muslim brothers and sisters''.

Dunedin Multi Ethnic Council president Paul Gourlie responded by asking councillors to forget the perpetrator's name, but instead commit to something even tougher.

''We are going to ask you to love the perpetrator,'' he said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

Add a Comment

 

Advertisement

postanote_header_620_x_80.png

postanote_620_x_25.jpg