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Commemorative service for victims of terrorism

14 September 2001 Speech Notes

St Paul's Cathedral, Wellington
Commemorative service for victims of terrorism


We gather from many denominations, to express our shock, our sorrow over the loss of life, and our concern for the injured, in the United States.

The images of the plane crashes are haunting – we imagine the horror of the victims. The images are constantly replayed on television – and I have found that they replay in my own mind. For each of us who has ever lost loved ones, we know the enormity of the suffering which will multiply from such a massive tragedy.

And we all feel vulnerable too - because what terrorism does, by definition, is to make each of us feel insecure.

My office has had calls from parents, saying their children are frightened that something similar might happen in New Zealand. Even here, across the other side of the world from New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, children are going to bed at night, frightened.

It might not offer much comfort to that fear, but I can say that our own security services are doing their job, and that we have no reason to believe that there is any action planned against New Zealand.

Today we take time to reflect, to pray, and to convey to the American people, that we share their pain, their shock – and just a small part of their grief.

On behalf of the New Zealand Government, I sent a message at 4am on Wednesday morning to President Bush and the American people. I expressed our shock.

When that message was sent, I was alone in the early hours of the morning, taking calls on the unfolding tragedy. But I felt certain that New Zealanders as they awoke to the horror of the news in the morning, would share those feelings.

Today, we gather together in this Cathedral to express similar sentiments. Today, we share with the many all over the world who will be expressing pain, shock, and grief.

What happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania was evil. No cause, no claim, no protest, no wrong, can ever justify these events.

We do not know how many New Zealanders have been killed or injured. But there was at least one kiwi, Alan Beavan, killed.

His name, just one, so far, amongst the many, many thousands, will bring this home to us.

We think of his family and his friends.

And we resolve that we will stand against such acts of terror, and demand that those responsible be brought to justice.

In this, New Zealand stands with the international community. In addition to justice, we must search for ways to stop, and to remove the causes of, terrorism.

And we must talk about the causes. Unless we do, there is no realistic end to insecurity - only endless cycles of violence, passed on to future generations. I am of Irish descent, and I speak from the heart.

Let me end by asking each of us in New Zealand as we share the suffering of the American people, not to add our own local insult to the very great injury in the United States.

By that I mean that we must not start blaming members of different communities here in New Zealand who are thought to belong to any group on which responsibility for the terrorism might eventually be sheeted home.

I have already had reports of people who look Islamic, being spat at or otherwise insulted. A few years ago, immigrants of African origin had bricks thrown through their windows. Such attacks on people who look different are the roots of racism, and we must not tolerate them or they will grow, like little acorns, into great evils.

I believe that it demeans our revulsion against the acts of terrorism in the United States of America, if we tolerate inhuman and degrading treatment in our own back yards, however small the insults might seem in comparison.

As we pray for those who are suffering in America, I ask therefore, that we reinforce our commitment to human dignity at home in New Zealand and throughout the world.


ENDS

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