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Christchurch Invitation: Mahia Te Aroha Launched

23 July 

Courage and compassion were celebrated at a special event in Christchurch tonight, at the launch of the Christchurch Invitation: Mahia te Aroha and presentation of Royal Humane Society Gold Bravery Awards.

The Christchurch Invitation comes from members of the city's Muslim community and is described as a pathway of hope in the wake of the hate-fuelled terror attack that claimed 51 lives in 2019.

Co-Founder, Anthony Green, believes Otautahi Christchurch has a unique opportunity to build on the extraordinary acts of aroha and support that unified the city in the days and weeks following the Mosque attacks.

"Something powerful happened here - in the midst of tragedy, we saw our shared humanity and came together in ways that reverberated around the world. Christchurch and New Zealand chose compassion over hate and that resonated with people everywhere. The Christchurch Invitation: Mahia te Aroha is about ensuring that we don’t lose that moment; that we take that feeling of shared humanity and compassion and start gifting it forward," said Mr Green.

"In launching this movement we are seeking to celebrate the rich diversity of our city and nation, while confronting the causes of prejudice and hate. It recognises that every one of us has a part to play in shaping a better future that promotes compassion and understanding towards others, regardless of race or belief, and it will demonstrate how we can all do that through simple every-day actions and behaviours, as well as being brave enough to have the tough conversations."

The Christchurch Invitation: Mahia te Aroha was launched at a sold-out James Hay Theatre in Christchurch’s Town Hall, with speeches by the Governor General, Her Excellency The Rt. Hon. Dame Patsy Reddy; Christchurch Mayor, Hon. Lianne Dalziel; Anthony Green; Dr Te Maire Tau, Ūpoko of Ngāi Tūāhuriri; Imam Sheik Gamal Fouda; and six powerful young representatives of the City.

Sara Qasem was one of those young speakers and said that the reading of her spoken word poem, 'Labels', in honour of her father, Abdelfattah Qasem, was deeply personal but carried an important message that she hopes people are ready to hear.

"All of us who spoke tonight took a risk in doing so. We allowed ourselves to be vulnerable by sharing difficult stories and realities that we are used to keeping to ourselves. By doing this, we hope to encourage other people to also choose courage by standing up to what they know is not right and taking actions to spread compassion and understanding, far and wide. That is the essence of the Christchurch Invitation: Mahia te Aroha - an invitation for us all to take action, however big or small it may be. If enough people step up to that invitation, then we will have started a movement of peace and aroha. How wonderful would that be?"

In a video message broadcast at the event, singer Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) acknowledged the impact internationally of Aotearoa's unique response and announced that his foundation is gifting a Peace Train to the city of Christchurch to promote peace and inclusion. The Peace Train Chugger is a symbol of peace and aims to spread the message to children and young people though plan and fun.

The Governor-General also presented seven Gold Bravery Awards from the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand.

“This event was a remarkable celebration of heroism and humanity,” the Governor-General said. “The Gold Medal is the Royal Humane Society’s highest bravery award and seven such awards in relation to one event is unprecedented in the history of the Society. It was an honour to present these Awards tonight to representatives of organisations and groups who showed such exceptional bravery and compassion following the horror of March 15,” Dame Patsy said.

“Christchurch has shown the world how to counter hate with humanity and this community is continuing to lead the way with the launch of the Christchurch Invitation: Mahia te Aroha.”

The recipients of the representative Gold Medal awards are:

  • Masjid An-Nur and its community;
  • Linwood Islamic Centre and its community;
  • St John New Zealand;
  • Canterbury District Health Board staff;
  • Union and Community Health Centre Piki Te Ora;
  • New Zealand Police;
  • The City and Citizens of Christchurch.

For more information about the Christchurch Invitation: Mahia te Aroha and to subscribe for updates, visit www.mahiatearoha.nz

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