So much of this global lens through which I view the world is because my mother is from New Zealand. I was incredibly fortunate to grow up visiting family there, aunts, uncles, cousins and my godmother who I am named after. But witnessing the leadership out of this small country over the last few weeks has been extraordinary.
Jacinda Ardern’s clarity, compassion and wisdom have been beyond measure. Her speech this week at the Christchurch Memorial came from a place of such deep understanding a simple wisdom: we belong to each other.
How do we encourage more compassionate leadership as continue into the 21st century? What does that look like in our homes and in our workplaces? Our places of worship and our places of play? How can we practice it every day? Or begin to? What would that look like?
Her speech was remarkable and the words are written below the video, taken from the Guardian. I invite you to take a few minutes to read them.
“E rau rangatira mā, e ngā reo, e ngā mana. Tēnā koutou katoa.
(I acknowledge amongst us today our distinguished leaders, speakers and those who bear authority.)
Ngāi Tahu Whānui, tēnā koutou.
(My greetings to the whole of Ngāi Tahu.)
E papaki tū ana ngā tai o maumahara ki runga o Ōtautahi.
(The tides of remembrance flow over Christchurch today.)
Haere mai tātou me te aroha, me te rangimārie, ki te whānau nei, e ora mārire ai anō rātau, e ora mārire ai anō, tātou katoa.
(So let us gather with love, in peace, for this family, so that they may truly live again, so that we all may truly live again.)
We gather here, 14 days on from our darkest of hours. In the days that have followed the terrorist attack on the 15th of March, we have often found ourselves without words.
What words adequately express the pain and suffering of 50 men, women and children lost, and so many injured? What words capture the anguish of our Muslim community being the target of hatred and violence? What words express the grief of a city that has already known so much pain?
I thought there were none. And then I came here and was met with this simple greeting. As-salaam Alaikum. Peace be upon you.
They were simple words, repeated by community leaders who witnessed the loss of their friends and loved ones. Simple words, whispered by the injured from their hospital beds. Simple words, spoken by the bereaved and everyone I met who has been affected by this attack.
As-salaam Alaikum. Peace be upon you.
They were words spoken by a community who, in the face of hate and violence, had every right to express anger but instead opened their doors for all of us to grieve with them. And so we say to those who have lost the most, we may not have always had the words.
We may have left flowers, performed the haka, sung songs or simply embraced. But even when we had no words, we still heard yours, and they have left us humbled and they have left us united.
Over the past two weeks we have heard the stories of those impacted by this terrorist attack. They were stories of bravery. They were stories of those who were born here, grew up here, or who had made New Zealand their home. Who had sought refuge, or sought a better life for themselves or their families.
These stories, they now form part of our collective memories. They will remain with us forever. They are us.
But with that memory comes a responsibility. A responsibility to be the place that we wish to be. A place that is diverse, that is welcoming, that is kind and compassionate. Those values represent the very best of us.
But even the ugliest of viruses can exist in places they are not welcome. Racism exists, but it is not welcome here. An assault on the freedom of any one of us who practices their faith or religion, is not welcome here. Violence, and extremism in all its forms, is not welcome here. And over the last two weeks we have shown that, you have shown that, in your actions.
From the thousands at vigils to the 95 year old man who took four buses to attend a rally because he couldn’t sleep from the sadness of seeing the hurt and suffering of others. Our challenge now is to make the very best of us, a daily reality.
Because we are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other. We never have been. But we can be the nation that discovers the cure.
And so to each of us as we go from here, we have work to do, but do not leave the job of combatting hate to the government alone. We each hold the power, in our words and in our actions, in our daily acts of kindness. Let that be the legacy of the 15th of March. To be the nation we believe ourselves to be.
To the global community who have joined us today, who reached out to embrace New Zealand, and our Muslim community, to all of those who have gathered here today, we say thank you.
And we also ask that the condemnation of violence and terrorism turns now to a collective response. The world has been stuck in a vicious cycle of extremism breeding extremism and it must end.
We cannot confront these issues alone, none of us can. But the answer to them lies in a simple concept that is not bound by domestic borders, that isn’t based on ethnicity, power base or even forms of governance. The answer lies in our humanity.
But for now, we will remember those who have left this place. We will remember the first responders who gave so much of themselves to save others.
We will remember the tears of our nation, and the new resolve we have formed.
And we remember, that ours is a home that does not and cannot claim perfection. But we can strive to be true to the words embedded in our national anthem.
Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place
God defend our free land
From dissension, envy, hate
And corruption, guard our state
Make our country good and great
God defend New Zealand
I have never been more proud to have a mother from New Zealand than I am now, to witness this incredible outpouring of humanity and profoundly heart-centered leadership.
May we serve with hearts like this around the world.