New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has unveiled a memorial plaque to the 51 worshippers killed in last year’s Christchurch mosque terror attacks.
Ms Ardern donned a headscarf and took part in a sombre ceremony at Al Noor mosque on Thursday morning as she visited Christchurch for the first time since the sentencing of Australian terrorist Brenton Tarrant last month.
Imam Gamal Fouda led proceedings, saying the day left ‘a scar on our hearts’ but promoted New Zealand as ‘the mother of peace in the world’.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wore a hijab (pictured) to a Christchurch terror attack memorial on Thursday
Ms Ardern (pictured) unveiled a memorial plaque to the 51 worshippers killed in last year’s Christchurch mosque shootings
Ms Ardern attended a sombre ceremony at Al Noor mosque (pictured) with members of the muslim community
Al Noor mosque shooting survivor Taj Mohammed Kamran (pictured left) took a selfie with the prime minister
Mr Fouda made two requests of Ms Ardern – asking for a national day of commemoration and hate speech laws which specifically included religion – saying ‘the blood of those people shouldn’t be forgotten’.
Ms Ardern said if re-elected, Labour would amend current laws to broaden the group of people to whom it is a crime to discriminate against.
‘We do have … provisions that deal with hate speech, discrimination, around people’s different identities but religion hasn’t been included in that. My view is that does need to change,’ Ms Ardern said.
New Zealanders will begin to vote from October 3, when polling places open a fortnight in advance of election day on October 17.
Ms Ardern said she hoped to make this law change sooner but Labour ‘hadn’t been able to deliver that last term’, a veiled suggestion she was blocked by coalition partners New Zealand First.
‘I just think in a modern New Zealand everyone would agree no one should be discriminated against for their religion and so it makes sense that we add this to the suite of other things we say it is just not okay to discriminate people over,’ she said.
Ms Ardern unveiled the plaque (pictured) to honour those who died after Australian terrorist Brenton Tarrant opened fire at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch on Friday March 15, 2019
Ms Ardern (pictured left) unveiled the plaque alongside the Imam of the Al Noor mosque Gamal Fouda (right)
Ms Ardern addressed the mourners gathered at the Al Noor mosque (pictured) for the sombre ceremony
Members of the muslim community greeted Ms Ardern (pictured) and she spoke with mourners before the ceremony
Ms Ardern also embraced members of the muslim community (pictured) and received a bouquet of flowers
The Prime Minister (pictured right) appeared stern as she walked alongside Imam Gamal Fouda (left) to unveil the plaque
Hate speech laws are covered by NZ’s Human Rights Act, but that only references race, colour, ethnic or national origins.
Australia’s anti-vilification laws vary state by state, but include other characteristics such as gender identity, sexual orientation or HIV status.
On the subject of a national commemorative day, the Labour leader said she wanted to consult further with the community.
Plans to stage a major commemorative event in 2020 were scuttled by the arrival of COVID-19.
Ms Ardern (right) greeted the the Imam of the Al Noor mosque Gamal Fouda (left) with an elbow bump
Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison over the double mass shooting in Christchurch (memorial plaque pictured)
Ms Ardern (pictured with Imam Gamal Fouda) promised to to amend New Zealand’s discrimination laws if a Labour government was re-elected in October
Ms Ardern has also promised to consult with victims of the attacks over whether Tarrant should be extradited to serve his lifelong jail term in Australia (Ms Ardern pictured arriving at the Al Noor mosque)
Ms Ardern has also promised to consult with victims of the attacks over whether the Grafton-raised terrorist should be extradited to serve his term in Australia, but won’t do this during the election campaign.
Ms Ardern said she was ‘pleased to see some old friends’ at the mosque.
‘I’ve seen people’s recovery which has taken some time,’ she said.
‘And to see for instance, some who have previously struggled with walking who are walking, some who talked about the pain having lessened physically. That shows the time that has passed but I don’t think anything’s quite going to heal what happened there.’
Last month, Tarrant became the first man in modern NZ legal history to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
Polling stations will open in New Zealand from October 3 (Ms Ardern pictured receiving gifts from the muslim community)
Plans to stage a major commemorative event for the tragedy were hindered by the arrival of COVID-19 (Ms Ardern pictured)