Several hundred people of the Indian diaspora gathered at Auckland’s Mahatma Gandhi Centre on the evening of Thursday, March 21 to pray for the 50 souls that perished in the Christchurch attacks.

The Auckland Indian Association Inc. convened the meet at which almost every Indian community organisation was represented.

The prayer meeting began with the lighting of 50 candles representing the 50 departed souls arranged in the shape of a heart, followed by the opening recitation of Sanskrit shlokas by Dr Devrambhai Keshavlal Raval, priest of the Radhakrishna Temple.

The learned priest also delivered a stirring speech, highlighting the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the ancient Sanskrit shloka that says the world is one family.

Islamic prayers were also recited and their significance explained, followed by eloquent speeches by Muslim community leaders Mohammed Moses, trustee of the Mount Roskill mosque, prominent community leader Mohammed Tauqir Khan and a leader of the Ponsonby mosque.

Speakers emphasised the universal belief that all creation emanates from the same creator, which is the common thread that runs through the core of all religions. The speakers also sought to correct misinformation and the misinterpretation of religious texts by groups interested in creating divisions.

Auckland Indian Association President Narendra Bhana and New Zealand Indian Central Association President Bhiku Bhana also addressed the meeting. An emotional Mr Bhiku Bhana said he had lost a nephew in the attacks.

Honorary Consul of India in Auckland Bhav Dhillon said the victims included ten who originated from India. He spoke of India’s unity in diversity and reiterated the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which is deeply embedded in the Indian ethos. He commended the generosity of Kiwis and members of the Indian diaspora after the tragedy.

All the leaders praised and thanked New Zealanders for their genuine support, compassion and generosity and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership throughout the crisis.

Also present at the event were Members of Parliament Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Parmjeet Parmar.

Several other leaders and individuals of the Indian diaspora spoke at the event.