It is a sad and reflective time as we remember the Christchurch Mosque attacks a year ago. I remember vividly sitting in my office receiving the call to lockdown and then the ensuing news that none of us would have believed possible to occur in our city. The days that followed and that still continue right till today demonstrated that love does prevail over hate, as we all saw the incredible acts of forgiveness and love demonstrated by the Muslim community, especially the surviving victims of both Mosques that were attacked. I have added some of my thoughts that I wrote about after attending the memorial held in Hagley Park in 2019.
“This morning I attended the National Remembrance Service at Hagley Park alongside two of our College Leaders William Topham and Cauis Fa’atili. It was a very emotional experience listening to a number of speakers, listening to the “reading of names” and of course the musical performances. I was most taken listening to one of the survivors from the Al Noor Mosque Farid Ahmed who was badly wounded and lost his wife during the terrorist attack. Listening to him speak of forgiveness, unity and love was an incredibly powerful example of what we should all be striving for in our own faith journey. I have include a part of his speech as it is worth reading and contemplating over the weekend.
“We believe that people [who] die in [a] good cause, the people who were killed in their worship, are in paradise.
“Today, in front of all of us, I would like to offer my sincere prayers for the people who were killed and also the people who survived.
“I would like to honour you for your presence today … I want to thank NZers for coming together; for showing the world that NZ is a peaceful country.
“People ask me: ‘why do you forgive someone who has killed your beloved wife?’ The answer is … I have a faith; I believe in Allah, and Allah says that if we forgive one another, he loves me, he loves us.
“Those who control their anger and pardon their fellow human – Allah loves [them].
“I don’t want to have a heart that is boiling like a volcano … it doesn’t have peace; it burns itself within, and it burns the surroundings.
“I want a heart that will be full of love and care, and will have mercy.
“I have chosen peace, I have chosen love, and I have forgiven”
“We all are Adam’s children, Eve’s children, we are one single family.
“I do not hate [the accused] – I cannot hate him, I cannot hate anyone.
“We all want peace … we say we want peace, but we have to start somewhere. We have to clean our own hearts first … if our hearts are full of love, then peace will start from here.
“Regardless of faith, culture and religion, I would like to begin with this city [in which] I live – Christchurch, the garden city. In the garden, we see different types of flowers. They are different, but together they make a beautiful garden. Ahmen.”
The outbreak of Coronavirus has dominated the news media and our thoughts. Here at St Thomas’ we are in constant communication with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health. We receive daily updates surrounding protocols and I include both agencies when making decisions around the health and safety of our students. Please take note of the information in this newsletter with regards to strategies to minimise the harm of this pandemic.
This weekend we have a very busy weekend with many of our students and staff involved in sporting and cultural activities around the city. I would like to wish our Polyfest group all the best for their performance on Saturday. They have worked so hard alongside our staff and their tutors (who are all oldboys).
The best of wishes to our 1st XI cricketers and our rowers who are participating at the South Island Champs over the weekend. And finally, good luck to our debaters who are competing in the Canterbury Regional debating championships over the weekend.
Next week we are hosting all seven Catholic secondary schools for the annual Bishop Lyons Speech competition. I would like acknowledge staff members Stephen Kennedy and Margaret Guerin for the wonderful work they have done in co-ordinating this event. We look forward to sharing a wonderful weekend with our Catholic Brothers and Sisters and celebrating all that is so wonderful about our Catholic faith.
I would like to finish this newsletter by acknowledging an amazing achievement of one of our long serving board members Mr Dominic Dravitzki, recently announced as a Judge. I was fortunate enough to attend Dominic’s swearing in ceremony which was attended by a large number of professional and personal colleagues. During the swearing in ceremony Dominic was honoured in so many ways, but the key attributes I took from the ceremony were that of humility and his strong social justice beliefs. In his reply, Dominic spoke at length of the impact St Thomas’ of Canterbury College had on his formation, as a student here alongside his brothers, as a father of sons attending the College and also his long association as Board and Proprietors representative. Congratulations Dominic, on behalf of the wider St Thomas’ Community.