After the tragic events on 15 March, PIF directors, members, and friends from Australian sister organisations flew to Christchurch to support the families of those tragically murdered and injured at the terror attacks.
Our group consisting of 6 men and 4 women assembled and reached Christchurch on Sunday 17 March. At the Auckland airport, before departure, we encountered a lady and her daughter. They joined our team and they remained with us for visits in Christchurch. They were also flying to Christchurch from Auckland to support Muslims. In a short period of time, they became very sincere with the women in our team. While we visited the injured in hospitals, our guests wore headscarves as a sign of solidarity. Our team visited approximately 15 injured at the hospital and families in their own homes who generously opened their doors to us. The injured Muslims at the hospital showed great strength and were in high spirits. The women in our group were essential. They provided relief, emotional support, and a shoulder to cry on for victim families.
Following the incidents, Christchurch became a city of sorrow but everyone united to become ‘one heart.’ Those who observed the headscarves worn by the women in the group were approaching them, expressing their disbelief and sadness and were hugging them. Hagley Park, right in the heart of the city, accommodated thousands of middle and high school students who were singing, performing the Haka, and expressing art to demonstrate solidarity with Muslims. Where there was sadness all over the city and country, there were also extraordinary displays of love and acceptance.
10 victims’ families were visited in Christchurch. Women in our group provided enormous moral support to those whose husbands, brothers, fathers, sons passed away. During the visits, Qu’ran was read (religious script) and prayers were made. The intention was to be together with the broken hearted, share the grief, and be present at a time when it was most needed. We witnessed that home visits were not being made and we made sure to fill this need. We offered our observations and recommendations to local organisations and leaders to also begin home visits as these visits were as vital as hospital visits to help those grieving to recover.
While all this was happening in Christchurch, our staff and members in Auckland were also visiting local mosques, responding to emails, calls and letters from concerned New Zealanders from across the religious and cultural spectrum.
Muslims were not the only ones who had their hearts shattered, our feelings were also shared by many hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who visited Islamic places of worship and attended the numerous vigils across the country following the aftermath of 15 March.
As PIF, we will not forget the families and relatives who had to endure these grave events. We will continue to be close and support the people who need it the most. We will act together with government officials, local councils, and Islamic organisations to continue to assist in any way, shape or form. We are currently working on a Ramadan Iftar dinner for the families in Christchurch to continue supporting them and highlighting that they are, we are, welcome in New Zealand.
We would like to express our gratitude first and foremost to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the first responders, government officials, Islamic organizations and to the generous and welcoming people of New Zealand for their empathy and sensitivity they have shown throughout this ordeal.