Community leaders gather in solidarity after Christchurch
THE head of the Far North Coast Muslim Association addressed a supportive audience at the weekend calling for "governments around the world to bring an end to hate speech and the politics of fear”.
Abdul Aziz was speaking to a gathering at the Lismore library organised by the Northern Rivers Peace Group Remembering and Healing.
The room was full of community leaders, including Catholic Bishop of Lismore Greg Homeming, St Andrew's Anglican Church's the Rev Alan Shaw, Jewish elder Colin Cussell, as well as Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin, Mayor Isaac Smith, Jenny Dowell and organiser Sabina Baltruweit.
The meeting took place to commemorate those lost during the Christchurch terrorist attack on March 15.
Mr Aziz said when he heard about the mass shooting he prayed this was labelled an act of terrorism.
"I saw live footage and I thought it was a TV show, I didn't believe it,” he said.
"I did not believe a single second of it, it showed like an Xbox game.
"This event is proof and evidence to the entire world that terrorism has no colour, has no race and has no religion. We call upon governments around the world to bring an end to hate speech and the politics of fear.
"Islamophobia is real, it kills Muslims and has left its pain for many years.”
Bishop Homeming spoke about how "individualism” was destructive when the commonality of being human was lost.
As a Catholic, he said the great religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, while different, "all shared the same God through the seeking of truth”.
"We need to promote and love each other for how we differ,” he said.
Mr Shaw told the audience "changing the world started with the smallest things. Behaving with respect starts with all of us.”
An emotional Mr Smith said he was proud of everyone who came to unite as a community at the event.
"I look out here and I see a sea full of leaders,” he said.
"I see faces. I see minds. I see people who are willing to stand out, to speak up and to make a difference. That is why Lismore is so special.”
Ms Baltruweit said she was moved by the powerful speakers and the support from the community.
"I think the next step is to take a look at what can we do ourselves to eliminate racism and violence in all its different shapes and forms,” Ms Baltruweit said.
"As Abdul Aziz pointed out, it is a terrorist attack and terrorism comes in all different shades and we need to unite all together.”
Member of the Muslim community Marlia Hardy has lived in Australia for 15years. She is a happy resident of Lismore.
"I feel love today, I have been in Australia for a long time,” she said.
"I have been living in the Lismore community for many, many years and so far have not any issue with racism.”
Remembering and Health group member Meg Winterford said she had only one comment: "Peace is possible and this is proof”.
Ms Dowell agreed, saying reassurance was easy.
"A sign as simple as a smile can go a long way to reassure people in our community in times of stress, so I urge everyone to reach out that smile or hand of friendship,” she said.