A karakia was held on the University of Auckland campus on Friday the 13th of March by the university’s Muslim Students’ Association to mark the first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks.
On March 15th, 2019, a gunman entered the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, killing 51 people.
More than 100 people attended the service at the Pavilion across from Old Government House at the city campus.
Prayers were held and speeches were made during the event.
Anzar Chida, the Head of Statistics at Mount Albert Grammar and an alumnus of the University, spoke on behalf of the Muslim community, saying New Zealand must acknowledge the past and focus on the future.
“What we saw in Christchurch is extreme bigotry.”
“We must remember the response [of New Zealanders] by ensuring islamophobia and bigotry is eliminated from New Zealand society.”
“Our greatest challenge is to transcend that response into respecting dignity for all.”
The Muslim Students’ Association’s President Omar Farhaan Khan said he is pleased to see the turnout for the service, especially the participation of non-Muslims.
“It is really nice. It really sends a strong message of that unity.”
“I always felt we [Muslims] need to represent ourselves in more gatherings like this.”
“A lot of people fear what they don’t know…This is the best way to get over the fear of the unknown.”
“Nobody is trying to push messages. We just want people to be inquisitive, ask questions and communicate with us.”
Khan also said Muslim students have received more positive support and empathy when communicating with the university in the year since the attacks, and more conversations on important topics, such as Islamophobia and religious bigotry, have been raised amongst the general public.
“There has been a jump to recognize that religion is something that people have, and we need to learn to co-exist. I think this is a silver lining in a very dark cloud.”
“Any step forward is a net gain – I don’t know if this will end Islamophobia in the country or in the world, but I think if we move forward in the right direction this is something we should be proud of.”
Then Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon attended the service, telling Craccum it was important for the university community to recognize what had happened one year ago.
“One of the speakers commented the gunman wanted to sow hate, but what has happened was more people caring for each other and much more people engaging and understanding differences.”
“There is no doubt that he failed and that it has actually brought our community closer.”
McCutcheon added that the University “has done a lot” since the attacks to support Muslims students and staff on campus, but it was “not finished by any means”.
He was also confident that his successor Dawn Freshwater could continue on the current effort.
Auckland University Student Association (AUSA) President George Barton saidthat the service was a great way to get the university community together.
“It is a reminder that what happened on March 15th does not define us and we want to make sure that we are consciously working as hard as we can to make this university more inclusive than ever.”
Barton also said AUSA will continue to support university efforts to be more inclusive by making sure every student is familiar with the new Code of Conduct, which sets out a number of standards for behaviour and acts as a guideline for university student and staff conduct.