Special Message to the AHRC “Spirit of Humanity” Awards and Dinner Gala (May 6, 2019) by
Her Excellency Ambassador Rosemary Banks, New Zealand Ambassador to the United States.

As-salamu alaykum — peace be upon you.

Tēnā koutou katoa (I welcome you in Te Reo Maori)

Greetings to you all

I would like to thank the American Human Rights Council and the communities it proudly serves across the United States – I am sorry I cannot be with you this evening but do hope to join to at a future gathering.

I would like to begin with a message of gratitude — on behalf of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and all New Zealanders, I sincerely thank you for your support and kind words of condolence. It has been comforting to hear from our friends at such a distressing time.

As you know, on the 15th of March New Zealand suffered what our Prime Minister described as “one of our darkest days”, a terrorist attack on two Mosques in Christchurch which killed 50 people and injured 50 more. This was unprecedented for New Zealand, which we are all proud of as an inclusive, peaceful, and welcoming country.

As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, we were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism, we were chosen for the very fact that we are none of those things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it.

New Zealand is a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. We have responded to this horrific act by coming together, stronger than ever in our diversity, inclusion and tolerance of others. The attacker intended to sew disunity and division. Instead he did the opposite.

On 29 March we held a national remembrance service for the victims of the Christchurch attack. More than 20,000 people attended in Christchurch and thousands more attended events across the country. These were of all ages, from a wide range of backgrounds, religions and ethnicities. We stood as one and continue to do so today.

But we know that unity is not enough, we cannot turn a blind eye to extremism and the threat it poses to us all. No country, including New Zealand, is immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other. Responding requires government attention, as well as an increased focus of us all.

Returning again to the words of our Prime Minister. The condemnation of violence and terrorism turns now to a collective response. The world has been stuck in a vicious cycle of extremism breeding extremism and it must end.

We cannot confront these issues alone, none of us can. But the answer to them lies in a simple concept that is not bound by domestic borders, that isn’t based on ethnicity, power base or even forms of governance. The answer lies in our humanity.

This is why it is so fitting to discuss such a theme at this “Spirit of Humanity” Awards and Dinner Gala celebrating our freedom while recognising the threats to it. Coming together in our diversity, companionship, and respect for one another. Events like this help bring us all closer together and disempower those who seek to divide us.

I thank you once again and look forward to attending a future gathering where I can meet you all in person.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Her Excellency Ambassador Rosemary Banks, New Zealand Ambassador to the United States.

Embassy of New Zealand, Washington D.C.


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