Harmony Day vigil remembers Christchurch
Hundreds of newly arrived migrants and refugees from more than 30 countries this week held a vigil for the victims of the Christchurch terror attacks as part of a Harmony Day picnic.
Office workers and passers-by joined students, clients and staff from migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia to stand in solidarity with the victims, their families and the people of Christchurch and New Zealand.
The simple vigil and minutes’ silence was held at Flagstaff Gardens, in Melbourne, last Thursday.
Leaders from Victoria’s Islamic community addressed the gathering along with AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth.
The organisers said the event emerged organically in response to the recent events in Christchurch. Melbourne is one of Australia’s most diverse cities, with more than 220 different nationalities represented.
Organiser and AMES Australia Flagstaff teacher Nicki Bowell said a picnic to celebrate Harmony Day had been organised several weeks ago.
“After the events in Christchurch, the students from Flagstaff decided that we would have a minutes’ silence also,” Nicki said.
“It was lovely to see everyone coming together in solidarity to take a stand against extremism and this terrible violence and to reject division and hatred,” she said.
AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth told the gathering that AMES Australia was committed to promoting social cohesion and harmony.
“Our successful brand of multiculturalism is a bulwark against extremism and we need to celebrate it and protect while also remembering the victims of senseless extremist violence,” Ms Scarth said.
“We walk with you in this amazing country … know that our difference unites us they do not divide us,” she said.
Islamic community leader Zakia Baig, of the Hazara Women’s Friendship Network, said who took lives were not Christians of Muslims.
“People who kill others, they are cowards,” she said.
Ms Baig, an Hazara Muslim from Afghanistan said after the Christchurch attacks, she felt vulnerable in Australia for the first time in the 13 years she has been here.
“When I heard about what happened in Christchurch, I was afraid – the first time since coming to Australia,” she said.
“We cannot let this happen again, we must stand together and we need more Jacinta Arderns.”
Islamic Council of Victoria General Manager Ayman Islam said he was grateful for the support that had come from all section of Australian society in the wake of the killings.
“It has been heartening to see ordinary Australians come forward in support. People have come forward and shown their solidarity with Islamic communities here in Victoria,” he said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist