22/03/2019 4:00:00 p.m.
22 March 2019 - Hundreds of people gathered in Rotorua’s Village Green today to show their support for the Muslim community and remember the victims who lost their lives and those left injured in Christchurch.
The Multicultural Vigil and Reflection was organised by members of Rotorua’s Muslim community with support from Rotorua Multicultural Council and Rotorua Lakes Council.
The vigil started with a two minute silences before students from Rotorua Girls’ High School paraded through the Village Green with flags from 13 different countries representing the nationalities of those who lost their lives in Christchurch last week.
A number of speakers addressed the crowd including local MPs, members of the local Muslim community and representatives from Te Arawa, the police and the Rotorua Association of Christian Churches.
Mayor Chadwick began the speeches paying tribute to those in attendance.
“We join in solidarity and pay our respects to the Christchurch victims and their families. To show support and aroha for our Muslim whanaunga of Rotorua, Aotearoa as well as across the globe and to find solace in one another.”
She told those gathered that New Zealand beats to its own rhythm.
“Our task is to come together in solidarity, to make efforts to know our neighbours and learn about multiculturalism and work together. We need to call out prejudice by becoming informed, educated and making friends. Knowledge is enlightenment and eliminates unconscious bias which exist across the globe.”
Many in the crowd were moved by a kōrero (speech) by organiser Omar Al Omari who wanted to acknowledge everyone for attending.
“Thank you for the love and support.”
"You can not be a Muslim if you do not believe in Jesus and all the prophets. We believe in all of them and all of them that come with one message - love."
Omar unfolded two A4 sheets of paper before the crowd and showed them drawings that had been done by children, which had been left in front of his mosque.
He ended his speech in affection.
"We love you. We must work together, we are you and you are us. I love you."
Omar says organisers wanted the event to be held at 2.30pm on a Friday as this was an important day for Muslims. He says Friday is a day of prayer for Muslims, much like a Sunday for Christians.
The time of the vigil allowed Muslims to attend prayer at 2pm and then attend the vigil. They also wanted to mark one week since the attack in Christchurch.
Condolence books were available for people to write in plus people brought their own signs and messages of support.
Condolence books are available to sign at Rotorua Lakes Council’s customer centre and at Rotorua Library in Te Aka Mauri.