Whanganui DHB staff pay tribute to Christchurch victims


28 March 2019


Whanganui District Health Board staff members light candles in tribute to victims of the Christchurch attack.

Staff at Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) took time out from their busy schedule on Wednesday [March 27] to remember the victims of the Christchurch attack with a memorial service.


The service at Whanganui Hospital, also attended by members of the community, was conducted by hospital chaplain Amail Habib, who called the slaughter of 50 Muslim worshippers at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 as a “tragedy beyond words”.


“We are here to honour our Muslim brothers and sisters,” he said, describing the spontaneous reaction of compassion and solidarity as qualities “woven into the New Zealand character”.


There was an emotional address by hospital registrar Dr Mukarram Mairaj, who is also president of the Islamic Association of Whanganui.


“We might be born in different parts of the world; we might have different skin colour … but the blood in our veins is the same. The same colour red.”


In an appeal for tolerance and acceptance, he told the gathering: “Your religion is your own personal belief – it’s between you and your god.”


Denouncing those who commit crimes in the name of Islam, he said they were the biggest enemy of Muslims and Islam.


He blew away some of the myths around his faith, saying Islam was a religion of peace; Islam was against all forms of violence and terrorism whether against Muslims or non-Muslims.


Islam voices for peace, cooperation and maintaining justice, he said.


“Islamophobia has exploited the word ‘Jihad’. Jihad is an Arabic word meaning ‘to strive’ or ‘to work hard to achieve something’.


“There are many types of Jihad – for example, Jihad with soul (internal Jihad, the most difficult form); Jihad against ignorance; Jihad with tongue or pen, by telling people truth and good things; and Jihad with weapon when it becomes mandatory in self-defence to defend yourself when someone who initiates aggression.”


Dr Nafiz Ghamri also spoke, saying Muslims in New Zealand had been overwhelmed by the reaction and support of Kiwis.


“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has signalled how a culture of tolerance should be, and is a reflection of true New Zealand values.


“When she said, ‘We are you and you are us’ … that had never been said before by a leader of a non-Muslim country.”


The service, held with a backdrop of images from the aftermath of the attack, included the lighting of candles by WDHB chief executive Russell Simpson, director of Maori health Rowena Kui and by doctors Mairaj and Ghamri.


Then those attending were invited to light one of the 50 candles representing each victim, while the chaplain read out their names.