By Pancha Narayanan and Paul Hunt
We are all in sorrow and mourning with the loss of our Muslim brothers and sisters who were targeted in the terrible Christchurch mosque attacks on Friday 15 March.
Each of us is grieving. With this grief we will also all be reflecting on what has happened and soon demanding answers. However, today, March 21 has a specific meaning for our diverse multicultural community. It is Race Relations Day.
Race Relations Day is observed around the world annually in conjunction with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The day was initially recognised to commemorate the 69 people – including 10 children – were killed while peacefully protesting Apartheid laws in Sharpeville in 1960.
It is a day we usually join together to reflect on how we work on the elimination of racial discrimination from society and share in one another’s diverse cultures. This message is even more pertinent this year for horrific reasons.
It is with heavy hearts that this year the day will mean we are all reflecting on those who died.
Let us remember them; learn their names and their stories; and honour their lives and their legacies. We must take the time to reflect following these terrible events at two Christchurch mosques on Friday.
The strength and the resolve of our communities not to give in to hatred has been shown as New Zealanders embrace one another to comfort, console and stand with each other in these sad times. People of all cultures and faiths have come together to show their grief in this difficult time, with an outpouring of solidarity and unity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.
As we grieve, it is also a time to reflect on the country we want to build. We must become a Treaty-based multicultural society.
The theme of this year’s Race Relations Day – ‘O tātou iwi, ō tātou ahurea, ō tātou reo – our people, our cultures, our languages’ – reflects the diversity we need to embrace as we continue the work of building a harmonious society.
More will be said in the coming weeks about what needs to change.
This Race Relations Day, we call on all New Zealanders to take time out of their day to reflect. To stand united in mourning with victims of Christchurch. To make personal and collective commitments to stand united against racism and hate whenever we see it.
We also encourage all New Zealanders to attend one of the multicultural days that will be running around the country until May 11, as part of an extended marking of Race Relations Day.
Give nothing to racism. Give nothing to hate. Give to Treaty-based multiculturalism, diversity, the promotion of peace this Race Relation Day.
More information on the multicultural events you can attend can be found here.