Multi-faith vigil brings city together

WelCom April 2019: Mary Eastham On Sunday 17 March, two days after the horrific massacre at the mosques in Christchurch, nearly 400 people gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit…

WelCom April 2019:

Mary Eastham

Multi-faith vigil brings city together Archdiocese of Wellington

An inter-faith service was held at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit for victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks. Celebrants were from the Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Baha’i, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities. Photo: Supplied

On Sunday 17 March, two days after the horrific massacre at the mosques in Christchurch, nearly 400 people gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Palmerston North to grieve, mourn and pray. Celebrants were from the Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Baha’i, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities. Having leaders of the different faiths sharing in the service was a powerful reminder of the great diversity within our city – and gathering together was a wonderful experience of unity through diversity. Hearing people pray and chant in words of their own faith tradition was deeply moving.

Heba Hegazi from the Muslim community led us in prayer, saying:

‘It is with great sadness we gather tonight to support, share and heal each other after the tragic terrorist attack on the innocent young, old, women, men worshippers in Christchurch last Friday 15 March.

We are here to condemn, reject, and resist this unhuman and planned act of terror against humanity in a peaceful calm and multicultural country like New Zealand. I can find no word to describe the devastation, fear, horror and loss those who witnessed the crime first hand and those who had seen it on media including the unhuman live recording of the crime. I am here tonight as a woman, mother, wife, daughter, midwife and community member and on top of that a devoted New Zealander and woman of faith to express we all need to be fighting this rising climate of hatred by all means for our next generation to exist.

While praying for those affected, their families, missing ones and the wider community, let’s not forget those who are not as privileged to get heard or seen through the blind media. Let us pray for those unfortunate and oppressed trapped and humiliated in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, occupied land of Palestine, Burma, India, borders of China and the rest of the world that we are with you.

I pray to Allah the only and one God who created human kind to have mercy and blessing on all of us here and everywhere in the world. I pray to God to forgive and accept our dead in His Heaven and Paradise. I pray to Allah to heal all the wounded and those who are critically ill here and everywhere in the wider world. I pray to God to bring peace and blessing on you, your families, our New Zealand society and the wider world. I pray to Allah to guard, protect, heal all the believers in any faith from any background anywhere to feel free to be who they are wherever they are lawfully existing. May Allah forgive and accept us all.’

Fifty candles were lit, each one representing a life lost, a family and the Muslim community devastated by shock and grief. The knowledge many of the victims would have come to New Zealand seeking refuge from situations of violence intensified our sense of grief and loss. Periods of profound silence in such a crowd were powerful – especially during the lighting of the 50 candles.

After offerings of spontaneous prayer from those gathered, the Decalogue of Resolutions from the first multifaith peace gathering of Assisi, organised by Pope John Paul II on 26 October 1986, was proclaimed with great conviction. The inspired reflections of representatives of different faith traditions, their sincere desire to work for peace, and their common quest for the true progress of the whole human family, found a concrete expression in the Decalogue for World Peace – addressed to all people of good will.

Everyone gathered stood and proclaimed the Decalogue as one family.

The Decalogue of Resolutions for World Peace – from the first multifaith peace gathering of Assisi organised by Pope John Paul II on 26 October 1986.

1. We commit ourselves to proclaiming our firm conviction that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion, and, as we condemn every recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion, we commit ourselves to doing everything possible to eliminate the root causes of terrorism.

2. We commit ourselves to educating people to mutual respect and esteem, in order to help bring about a peaceful and fraternal coexistence between people of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions.

3. We commit ourselves to fostering the culture of dialogue, so that there will be an increase of understanding and mutual trust between individuals and among peoples, for these are the premise of authentic peace.

4. We commit ourselves to defending the right of everyone to live a decent life in accordance with their own cultural identity, and to form freely a family of his own.

5. We commit ourselves to frank and patient dialogue, refusing to consider our differences as insurmountable barriers, but recognizing instead that to encounter the diversity of others can become an opportunity for greater reciprocal understanding.

6. We commit ourselves to forgiving one another for past and present errors and prejudices, and to support one another in a common effort both to overcome selfishness and arrogance, hatred and violence, and to learn from the past that peace without justice is no true peace.

7. We commit ourselves to taking the side of the poor and helpless, to speaking out for those who have no voice and to working effectively to change these situations, out of the conviction that no one can be happy alone.

8. We commit ourselves to taking up the cry of those who refuse to be resigned to violence and evil, and we desire to make every effort possible to offer the men, women and children of our day real hope for justice and peace.

9. We commit ourselves to encouraging all efforts to promote friendship between peoples, for we are convinced that, in the absence of solidarity and understanding between peoples, technological progress exposes the world to a growing risk of destruction and death.

10. We commit ourselves to urging leaders of nations to make every effort to create and consolidate, on the national and international levels, a world of solidarity and peace based on justice.

The service ended with the singing of all five verses of the New Zealand National Anthem. Many had never heard all five verses before. The singing of our anthem, which affirmed the values of interfaith and cross-cultural solidarity, raised the rafters of the Cathedral. I have never heard it sung with such passion.

People hugged one another as they left the Cathedral while two armed policemen stood guard outside. It was a sobering reminder New Zealand had changed forever.