Following attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left at least 49 people dead, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken out strongly against racism and Islamophobia. The extremist views of the attackers “have absolutely no place in New Zealand,” she said “and, in fact, have no place in the world.”
In the hours following the attacks, Ardern emphasized New Zealand’s proud identity as a diverse nation, and expressed grief that many of those affected by the attacks may well have chosen to move there because they felt safer there than in their country of origin.
The death toll from the attacks meant that more were killed on one day than are usually murdered in an entire year in New Zealand, the Washington Post reported, using national police statistics.
“We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages, and amongst said diversity, we share common values and the one we place the currency on right now and tonight is our compassion and the support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy and secondly, the strongest possibly condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this,” she said. Of those attackers, at least one of whom was an Australian living in New Zealand, she said: “You may have chosen us. But we utterly reject and condemn you.”
Ardern said she had spoken with the mayor of Christchurch and intended to meet with the city’s Imam. “But I also want to send a message to those directly affected. In fact, right now, I’m sure New Zealand would like me to share a message on their behalf too,” she added.
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have been impacted today. Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many, this may not have been the place they were born. In fact, for many, New Zealand was a choice, a place they actively came to and committed themselves to, the place they were raising their families, where they were part of communities they loved and who loved them.
“It was a place that many came to for its safety, a place where they were free to practice their culture and their religion. For those of you who are watching at home tonight and questioning how this could have happened here … We, New Zealand, we were not a target because we are a safe harbor for those who hate.
“We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, [or] because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it, and those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”
In an interview with the BBC last November, Ardern spoke about her leadership style, stating that “it takes courage and strength to be empathetic, and I’m very proudly an empathetic, compassionately-driven politician.”
Hear New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s comments following the mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques: