At the centre of the tragedy that shook the denizens of Christchurch as well as the rest of the world is New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Today, on 19 March 2019, she gave a heart-wrenching speech in the presence of the parliament for the first time after the recent tragedy.
This is a summary of what she had to say..
She starts with a respectful greeting, knowing which faction of her audience has to be addressed most crucially:
“Al salamu Alaikum. Peace be upon you. And peace be upon all of us.”
She expresses her grief as well as that of her nation’s by saying:
“The 15th of March will now forever be a day etched in our collective memories. On a quiet Friday afternoon a man stormed into a place of peaceful worship and took away the lives of 50 people. That quiet Friday afternoon has become our darkest of days.”
Addressing the families affected, Ardern adds words in Maori,
“And in this role, I wanted to speak directly to the families. We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage. We can. And we will, surround you with aroha, manaakitanga and all that makes us, us. Our hearts are heavy but our spirit is strong.”
She recounts the bravery of the New Zealand police…
“The arrest itself was nothing short of an act of bravery. Two country police officers rammed the vehicle from which the offender was still shooting. They pulled open his car door, when there were explosives inside, and pulled him out. I know we all wish to acknowledge that their acts put the safety of New Zealanders above their own, and we thank them.”
…as well as the courage of the citizens…
“Naeem Rashid, originally from Pakistan, died after rushing at the terrorist and trying to wrestle the gun from him. He lost his life trying to save those who were worshipping alongside him. Abdul Aziz, originally from Afghanistan, confronted and faced down the armed terrorist after grabbing the nearest thing to hand – a simple EFTPOS machine. He risked his life and no doubt saved many with his selfless bravery.”
Ardern then mentions the measures that have been implemented in order to ensure the safety of the citizens:
“There is an additional and ongoing security presence in Christchurch, and as the police have indicated, there will continue to be a police presence at mosques around the country while their doors are open. When they are closed, police will be in the vicinity. There is a huge focus on ensuring the needs of families are met. That has to be our priority. A community welfare centre has been set up near the hospital in Christchurch to make sure people know how to access support. We are working to provide mental health and social support. The 1737 number yesterday received roughly 600 texts or phonecalls. They are on average lasting around 40 minutes, and I encourage anyone in need to reach out and use these services. They are there for you.”
A major development would be the start of a thorough examination of New Zealand’s gun laws:
“Yesterday Cabinet agreed that an inquiry, one that looks into the events that led up to the attack on 15 March, will occur. We will examine what we did know, could have known, or should have known. We cannot allow this to happen again. Part of ensuring the safety of New Zealanders must include a frank examination of our gun laws. As I have already said our gun laws will change. Cabinet met yesterday and made in-principle decisions, 72 hours after the attack. Before we meet again next Monday, these decisions will be announced.”
Out of remembrance and respect for the victims and their mourning families, Ardern implores that nobody speaks the terrorist’s name as to deny him of any notoriety and silence his hateful message:
“He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless. And to others I implore you: speak the names of those who were lost, rather than name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.”
As a conclusion, she pays tribute to the man who graciously welcomed the terrorist into the mosque despite having a gun directed at him:
“One I wish to mention, is that of Hati Mohemmed Daoud Nabi. He was the 71-year-old man who opened the door at the Al-Noor mosque and uttered the words ‘Hello brother, welcome’. His final words. Of course he had no idea of the hate that sat behind the door, but his welcome tells us so much – that he was a member of a faith that welcomed all its members, that showed openness, and care.”
She ends her speech with:
“Tatau tatau, Al salam Alaikum Weh Rahmat Allah Weh Barakaatuh”
Watch PM Jacinda Ardern’s full speech below:
For the full transcription of the speech, click here.