When terror struck the two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand, the whole world froze. The Jews of the world were also mortified by this attack on their biblical brothers and sisters. Abraham would have been shocked to see the ongoing violence against Muslims and Jews throughout the world.
Christchurch already had a share of major calamities, but this was something to the extreme. The people of New Zealand came out in force to stand by their fellow Muslim citizens. And their Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, was magnanimous in the way she addressed the nation.
Earlier this month, Jewish leaders from both Australia and New Zealand rallied in Christchurch to support the grieving Muslim community and knelt alongside the Muslim mourners listening to the Imams at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood mosque as they recalled the chilling details of the March 15 massacre.
As a further sign of mutual respect, the Muslim representatives donned the traditional Jewish kippah and visited the Canterbury synagogue.
Addressing Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel in front of a bank of television and radio networks, the CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff – who flew to Christchurch to present a Jewish crowdfunded cheque of $69,980 for the shattered Muslim community – emphasised that “we all want our loved ones to return home safely each day, without being abused or worse because of their race, religion, gender or sexual preference”.
“The most practical way of advancing this most fundamental of ideals is to cast aside our differences where we can meaningfully support each other as members of a shared humanity,” he said.
And in a show of trans-Tasman solidarity, Juliet Moses from the New Zealand Jewish Council added: “The Jewish community has experienced its own share of attacks against it, so we understand the pain that the Muslim community of Christchurch would be going through. Our hearts beat as one – we feel your pain”.
In meeting the Jewish delegation, the Imam of the Al Noor mosque, Gamal Fouda, described their meeting as a golden opportunity for the two religions to work together. “The Jewish people are the siblings of Muslims and Judaism is a close religion to Islam as well,” he said.
When the tragedy initially unfolded, the Sydney Opera House poignantly displayed a silver fern to show solidarity between Australia and New Zealand. At the same time the NSW Jewish Board launched its crowdfunding campaign to assist the Muslim community, and together with other Jewish groups in the US and New Zealand, a total amount of $NZ1.1 million was raised to support the Christchurch Muslim community with medical, heath and counselling services.
Addressing the mayoral ceremony in Christchurch, Alhadeff said: “These funds are intended for the families of those impacted by the tragedy, encompassing education, vocational training, medical care and interfaith programming. Today we walk in the skin of the Muslim community of Christchurch.”
Ibrar Sheikh from the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ summarised the moment: “The Jewish and Muslim community in New Zealand already have a long history of collaboration, but this support from the global community is very gratefully received.”
Those people who missed the National Remembrance Service in Christchurch can tune in here: