Wanaka has rallied in support of the Muslim community after the devastating attacks last week in Christchurch.
More than 1500 people gathered for a vigil on Wanaka’s lakefront on Monday night, led by Queenstown Lakes deputy mayor Calum MacLeod.
He said he was extremely honoured and humbled to lead the solemn occasion on behalf of the community.
“It is not a situation I ever thought I would find myself in. We as a community now stand in the long shadow of this tragedy with a profound sense of loss of innocence.”
The vigil was a chance for the local community to show support for and solidarity with the Muslim community.
“We as a community express our condolences with the family and friends of those who were lost and our hopes and prayers for those still fighting for their lives.”
Mr MacLeod recognised many people in the community had been “very affected by these horrific events”.
He hoped the vigil was an opportunity to “reach out to all peoples” and encouraged “friends, family, neighbours, loved ones and strangers to assist in any way we can with the healing process”.
Queenstown Lakes and Wanaka was a district with a diverse multicultural community, he said.
“This is a place where diversity is celebrated, respected and embraced.
“We will stand united with all those affected and will come together as one community to strive for peace, tolerance and love for all.”
Queenstown Muslim Community president Mohammad Nadheem said people from across Central Otago, including Roxburgh, Alexandra, Cromwell and Wanaka, came to join a vigil in Queenstown on Monday night.
He said the Muslim community was very grateful to the council, and to the local police.
“They have been contacting me and asking if they can help, so it is very very good for us.”
The local community “reacted straight away” and had been “getting together and helping us out”, he said.
Mt Aspiring College principal Wayne Bosley said before beginning classes on Monday morning the staff met to see how everyone was.
“We agreed that the students should feel welcome to speak about the tragedy and ask their questions and to allow them to feel comfortable about the way they were feeling right now.”The college then met as a whole, and he and his two head pupils spoke – “reinforcing the importance of love, kindness and tolerance”.
Guidance services had been offered to both pupils and staff, he said.
Pupils were invited to share ideas on what the school could do over the week to support Christchurch. Initial ideas included a mufti day, a vigil, wearing a white flower, and a mural.
Anglican Parish of Upper Clutha vicar Damon Plimmer said prayers had been offered for all those affected in Christchurch.
“Like most of the nation we are fairly shocked and devastated by it.
“Our thoughts and our prayers go out to those particular communities affected.”
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