Unity Week keeping solidarity strong as mosque attacks commemorated

6:32 pm on 15 March 2023
Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2020.

The Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, scene of a 2019 terror attack by a white supremacist. Photo: NurPhoto

A Christchurch widow who lost her husband in the 2019 mosque attacks says commemorations are about "learning lessons" from that day four years ago.

A community initiative dubbed Unity Week will run over the coming days in the garden city to honour the 51 people who died in the attacks.

Unity Week founding member and Sakinah Community Trust chairperson Dr Hamimah Ahmat said it was a way for people to "get to know and engage" with the Muslim community.

"This is one way for us to come together and remember that you know where we have much unity and that their memory doesn't go away," she said.

"This is an opportunity for people to get to know Muslims, and interact with Muslims, or anyone that is different to them."

Hamimah Ahmat's husband Zekeriya Tuyan was injured in the attacks, but died 48 days later in Christchurch hospital.

Every day was difficult, she said.

"For me, personally, Unity Week, and the trustees that I work with Unity Week, is something that we want to make sure that the loss that we experience, is associated with something big, something impactful, so that our loved ones did not die in vain.

"It's about the solidarity and the aroha that we saw, when March 15 happened, we want to reconnect back to that goodwill, to that compassion that we saw.

"We want people to remember and understand that, you know, we are all different, but we have our common bonds that we can honour."

Ahmat gave credit to the government for actioning the recommendations of the Royal Commission's inquiry into the attacks.

"Can it go more faster? A lot of us would say yes.

"But I think we could improve more on communication, agencies talking to each other, and the process to be more trauma-informed, faith-based, to help us navigate through the myriad of processes."

Unity week events

  • Meet and Eat, Riverside, 16 March
  • Walk the Talk for Unity, Canterbury Museum, 18 March
  • Unity Picnic and Peace Train, Botanic Gardens, 19 March

Keep promises, Hipkins told

New Zealand's Muslim community was also urging Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to not renege on government promises, four years on from the attacks.

The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) has released the report 'Holding the Government to Account', which raised a number of concerns.

Abdur Razzaq speaking on behalf of the Federation of Islamic Associations at the coronial scope hearing on the Christchurch terror attacks.

Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) chairperson Abdur Razzaq. Photo: Supplied

The government promised to implement all 44 recommendations made by the Royal Commission in December 2020.

Federation chairperson Abdur Razzaq said with a new prime minister at the helm, the government needed to ensure its "investment remains fit for purpose".

"The tragedy has resulted in an immeasurable human cost of 51 shuhada, 40 bullet wounded and those who are suffering from on-going trauma and deprivation.

"At another level, the terror event has also so far accounted for over $550 million of expenditure to make our nation safe."

Four years on from the tragedy, FIANZ was mindful of the need to ensure the "long-term social cohesion and national security of the country", Razzaq said.

Some of the concerns outlined in the report include was to why Treasury changed the scope of the royal inquiry's recommendation and reform of hate speech legislation, which is described as going from "non-delivery to mis-delivery".

"We are also concerned how a review of secrecy classification was seemingly done in secret, quite contrary to the RCOI recommendation."

Compensation for the victims of the mosque attacks is also raised in the report.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs