“What unites us is greater than what divides,” Dr Gill Hicks.
Ten years after the London Bombings, Dr Gill Hicks walks for peace and encourages conversations about how to get peace on earth but actually, she has a right to be very angry.
On the morning of Thursday, 7 July 2005, four Islamist extremists separately detonated three bombs in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and, later, a fourth on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. Fifty-two people were killed and over 700 more were injured in the attacks.
The 7 July attacks happened the day after London had won its bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, which had highlighted the city's multicultural reputation.
That morning Gill travelled on the Piccadilly Line and she was on the train standing next to Jermaine Lindsay who was carrying a bomb in his backpack. The explosion meant she lost both her legs and nearly died from blood loss. Her lungs had collapsed and she had a perforated ear drum.
Today Gill has become close friends with the many police officers and medical staff who saved her life. She says the love she received from complete strangers is much more important to her than the hateful attack on her and her fellow passengers.
“The man next to me saved my life. He then lost his life and left behind two little children. In his last moments he saved my life,” Gill Hicks says, telling her story on ABC radio.
“I now believe there is so much more to the dimension and fullness of our lives. I signed a new contract with life,” she said.
“I am now determined to do all I can to deter anyone from following a path of violent action.”
With that vision, in 2007 Gill founded the not-for-profit organisation M.A.D. for Peace, a platform that connects people globally.It invites people all over the world to look for peace in their own lives. To this end Gill has also held television discussions with panelists that have been members of gangs or extreme militant groups but now are reverted to peace as she pushes on with the conversation about how to achieve peace and stop extremism.
“I believe everyone can make a personal difference to create a confident global community and a sustainable peace.”
Gill is asking people to come out and walk and talk with people that appear very different from themselves and she guarantees each person will find things in common with that person.
Gill took a very long and painful walk as a statement for peace from Liverpool where the families of the suicide bombers lived, to London. She recalls a Muslim man and an English woman who lived across the road from each for 10 years but had never spoken began talking within 10 minutes. But both had held the wrong idea about the other for 10 years.
“Most people have very similar concerns and fears and hopes.”
Dr Hicks was the key note speaker at the Human Rights Commission Diversity Forum at the Auckland University of Technology. The forum is a platform that brings together individuals and organisations to share ideas and good practice on cultural diversity and positive race relations.
Tūrangawaewae asked Gill what she thought New Zealanders could do to help bridge the gap between fear and tolerance and to build acceptance of cultures and people new to us here:
"The greatest antidote to fear is confidence. Working to co-create Confident and Empathetic Societies is one of the greatest areas of value in our increasingly culturally diverse communities.”