Speech by The Duke of Cambridge at Al Noor Mosque
Christchurch, New Zealand
26 April 2019
Tena Koutou katoa, mai Te Whare Ariki o te Kuini
Good morning. Today, we gather in a place of worship, faith, and friendship. We gather here in Al Noor mosque, a home for community and for family.
On the 15th of March, tragedy unfolded in this room.
A terrorist attempted to sow division and hatred in a place that stands for togetherness and selflessness. He thought he could redefine what this space was.
I am here to help you show the world that he failed.
Now, when I woke up in London on the morning of 15th of March, I could not believe the news.
An act of unspeakable hate had unfolded in New Zealand – a country of peace.
And it had unfolded in Christchurch – a city that has endured so much more than its fair share of hardship.
And when it was confirmed that 50 New Zealand Muslims had been killed – murdered while peacefully worshiping – again, I just could not believe the news.
I have been visiting New Zealand since before I could walk.
I have stood alongside New Zealanders in moments of joy and celebration.
And I have stood alongside New Zealanders in this city in moments of real pain, after loved ones, homes, and livelihoods had been lost after the 2011 earthquake.
And what I have known of New Zealanders from the earliest moments of my life is that you are a people who look out to the world with optimism. You have a famous strength of character. You have a warm-hearted interest about cultures, religion, and people thousands of miles from your shores.
You acknowledge, debate, and grapple with your own cultural history in a way that has no real parallel in any other nation.
So again, I could not believe the news I was hearing on the 15th of March.
A country that seemed to be bucking global trends of division and anger, looked like maybe it too would fall victim to those intent on promoting fear and distrust. I have no doubt that this is what the terrorist had hoped for.
But New Zealanders had other plans.
The people of Al Noor and Linwood mosques had other plans.
In a moment of acute pain, you stood up and you stood together. And in reaction to tragedy, you achieved something remarkable.
I have had reasons myself to reflect on grief and sudden pain and loss in my own life. And in my role, I have often seen up close the sorrow of others in moments of tragedy, as I have today.
What I have realised is that of course grief can change your outlook. You don’t ever forget the shock, the sadness, and the pain.
But I do not believe that grief changes who you are. Grief – if you let it – will reveal who you are.
It can reveal depths that you did not know you had.
The startling weight of grief can burst any bubble of complacency in how you live your life, and help you to live up to the values you espouse.
This is exactly what happened here in Christchurch on the 15th of March.
An act of violence was designed to change New Zealand. But instead, the grief of a nation revealed just how deep your wells of empathy, compassion, warmth, and love truly run.
You started showing what New Zealand really was almost immediately. On the road outside these walls, people pulled their cars over and started caring for the victims even when they did not know if it was safe to do so. Your neighbours opened their doors to those who were fleeing the violence.
Your first responders apprehended the killer and immediately worked to save lives in the most challenging of circumstances.
In the days that followed, thousands of bouquets of flowers filled public spaces in this city, brightening the darkest of moments.
Your Prime Minister showed extraordinary leadership of compassion and resolve, providing an example to us all.
Imam Gamal Fouda – you displayed wisdom and grace that is almost unthinkable given what you witnessed with your own eyes. Your words in the days after the attack moved the world.
Your reminder that the victims needed to be remembered both as Muslims and as New Zealanders showed that grief revealed you to be a man of great wisdom.
You could not have been more right when you declared that this country is unbreakable.
On the map New Zealand may look like an isolated land. But in the weeks that followed the 15th of March, the moral compass of the world was centred here in Christchurch.
You showed the way we must respond to hate – with love.
You showed that when a particular community is targeted with prejudice and violence, simple acts – like wearing a headscarf or broadcasting the call to prayer – can reassure those who have reason to be afraid.
You showed that an attack designed to divide a society against Muslims only brought us all closer to our Muslim friends.
The Muslim community showed the world the true face of Islam as a religion of peace and understanding.
I was very moved by the stories of the great distances that your friends and families travelled to support you in your time of need, even when your previous connections had not always been frequent. They travelled here to support you because you were family and that is what families do. They drop everything when it is needed.
People of all faiths and backgrounds can learn a great deal from how the Muslim families affected by the 15th of March attacks rallied around their loved ones.
The example provided by New Zealand will prove to be of enduring value to all nations. What happened here was fuelled by a warped ideology that knows no boundaries. The world has rightly united to fight the extremism that has made sorrowful brethren out of cities like New York, Paris, London, and Manchester and that has taken so many lives in Sri Lanka in recent days.
And so too we must unite to fight the violent brand of extremism that has led to fatal shootings in a church in Charleston, South Carolina and a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; a van attack on the streets of Finsbury Park in London; the murder of an MP in West Yorkshire; and now so many deaths in two mosques here in Christchurch.
Extremism in all its forms must be defeated.
The message from Christchurch and the message from Al Noor and Linwood mosques could not be more clear – the global ideology of hate will fail to divide us.
And just as New Zealand has taken swift action to ban physical tools of violence, we must unite to reform the social technology that allowed hateful propaganda to inspire the murder of innocents.
To the people of New Zealand and the people of Christchurch – to our Muslim community and all those who have rallied to your side – I stand with you in gratitude for what you have taught the world these past weeks.
I stand with you in optimism about the future of this great city.
I stand with you in grief for those we have lost, and with support for those who survived.
And I stand with you in firm belief that the forces of love will always prevail over the forces of hate. –
No reira, kia kaha, Arohanui
Tena tatou katoa