Last Saturday 16th March 2019 I put on my paua shell ring and in doing so I was standing in solidarity with all New Zealanders.
This act of standing in solidarity with New Zealanders followed the abhorrent attack on two mosques by a white supremacist, a citizen of Australia, living in New Zealand. The day before, Friday 15th March, fifty people were killed, and many were injured. This act of violence in a community, in a place of worship, should not happen. It is a place where people should feel safe.
Earlier in the week I was preparing for an interstate holiday. In deciding which jewellery to take, I came across my paua shell ring. I bought the ring when I was living in New Zealand, around 50 years ago. I had not worn it for decades. But when I saw it, I slipped it on my finger and decided I would wear it when on holidays. I cleaned the ring in preparation for our trip a few days away. There it sat on my chest of drawers waiting to be slipped on to my finger early on the morning of Saturday 16th March.
Although unplanned, it was symbolic. Anyone who saw the ring and recognised the paua shell of New Zealand hopefully would understand the simple message. My heart was with them, as they are us, we are all one, part of the human race.
In the Maori language paua is the name given to abalone (Haliotis Iris), which is native to New Zealand. The paua is one of the most sought-after abalone due to the iridescent colours of its shell. Every paua is different in its colours and patterns. Just like human being, each of us is unique.
It was a rare glimpse of compassionate leadership by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, as she reached out to the Muslim community in love, compassion and inclusion. Her words will echo across the world for decades to come – we are one, they are us.
Today, near the al Noor mosque Iman Gamal Fouda said, “We have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable, and that the world can see in us an example of love and unity. We are broken-hearted but we are not broken. We are alive! We are together! We are determined to not let anyone divide us. Our assembly here, with all the shades of our diversity, is a testament of our joint humanity.”
Iman Fouda said to Prime Minister Ardern, “Thank you for your leadership. It has been a lesson for the world’s leaders. Thank you for holding our families close and honouring us with a simple scarf”. Further he said, “Thank you for your words and tears of compassion. Thank you for being one with us. Thank you to the New Zealand Government and to all the wonderful people who have shown us that we matter and are not forgotten”.
Finally, today in Christchurch and across the nation of New Zealand there was two minutes of silence. It was a symbolic but significant act of others standing in solidarity with the Muslim community. Yes, a sign of our joint humanity. Love will always triumph over evil – #theyareus.