New Zealand Statement to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Emergency Meeting
Statement delivered by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Emergency Meeting on the Christchurch terror attack.
22 March 2019
Peace be upon you
And peace be upon all of us
The words of the Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him, about feeding the hungry and greeting with peace those you know and those you do not know, are so seriously true.
Let us acknowledge our host country, Turkey, and President Erdogan.
At the invitation of His Excellency Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, we felt it was critical that two members of the New Zealand Government’s Cabinet should travel here today.
It is important that both of us join you at this extraordinary meeting to discuss the appalling terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. We also acknowledge Foreign Minister colleagues who have changed their schedules to be here.
We meet under the most appalling of circumstances.
And to discuss how to respond to the sickening terrorist attack that took place in New Zealand one week ago today. A day that changed our country – a day when a coward not from New Zealand attempted to terrorise us and tear us apart.
Last Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand, at worship on their holy day within the sanctuary of the mosque, our Muslims were attacked in an utterly callous and cowardly act of terrorism.
Fifty people were murdered. Fifty more were wounded. Many are still hospitalised.
The Police response was instantaneous. The first police officers arrived at the scene of the attack within just 5 minutes, and within 21 minutes, the terrorist was arrested. From here, this person will face the full force of New Zealand law. He will spend the rest of his life in isolation in a New Zealand prison.
To ensure no stone is left unturned in his prosecution, our police have started mounting the largest investigation in our history in New Zealand. No punishment could match the depravity of his crime, but the families of the fallen will have justice.
This was an attack that affected Muslims most directly. Innocent people who were killed as they practised their religion.
In a country that practices religious tolerance, an attack on one of us, observing their beliefs, is an attack on all of us.
New Zealanders across the length and breadth of our nation feel a profound sense of grief and loss.
Millions have embraced their Muslim neighbours. They have laid flowers at mosques up and down the country. They have stood watch in all of our main cities. And they have given money in aid of the victims – well over ten million dollars in a few short days have been donated by New Zealanders to their families.
As a nation, we have and will pay respect to the dead, the maimed and the bereaved. Together with our Prime Minister and leaders of our other political parties, we have been in Christchurch mourning with the families.
It was there that we were grateful to receive the visit of the Turkish Vice-President, His Excellency Mr Fuat Oktay and our Chairman today, Mr Çavuşoğlu, to pay their respects to the victims’ families.
We also acknowledge the many planned visits from others represented here.
Our Parliament convened earlier this week to mourn. This is the most ethnically diverse Parliament in New Zealand’s history and it opened for the first time with an Islamic prayer in the presence of several Imams and representatives of many other faiths.
Today in New Zealand our country stopped for a call to prayer followed by two minutes silence. This time next week, we will have a national memorial service. We hope many at this forum will be represented. None of this, of course, could ever be an adequate expression of our national grief.
Our Government is providing every support to the living victims of this despicable attack. We will look after them.
Ensuring Muslim communities in New Zealand feel safe and secure is a particular focus. Police stand guard outside all mosques to ensure people can pray in peace. And there is an elevated police presence throughout the country.
New strict gun control measures have already been announced.
We will confront the way social media is used to spread vile hatred. For extremism has no race, religion or colour. It must be condemned, whatever form it takes.
A full inquiry will be conducted to help to do everything we can to stop such a senseless attack in the future.
Whenever and wherever a terrorist strikes, the aim is to provoke fear and panic. In New Zealand, it has failed. It failed because our thoughts are not the terrorist’s thoughts, and his extremist ways are not our ways. And to be clear, in New Zealand hate speech is not tolerated.
While everything else may have changed in our country on 15 March, New Zealand’s essential character has not and will not.
New Zealand is and will remain a safe and open society. A place where our international visitors feel comfortable and secure. We are a compassionate, tolerant people.
This horrific attack cannot shake those core values, because this is who New Zealanders are.
We have been overwhelmed by messages of sympathy, of support and of solidarity that have come from our friends all across the world.
We have been humbled to have the global Muslim community stand with us in our bleakest hour.
Today, tomorrow and into the future, let us continue to stand together in stamping out the hate-filled ideologies that led to last Friday’s terrible tragedy. Out of despair, let us work with a renewed vigour to spread tolerance, compassion and understanding.
Shukran - Al salaam Alaikum