Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for more appreciation of the oft-repeated, and often under-appreciated word ‘diversity,’ after the horrors of the recent Christchurch attack.
Speaking at Auckland's 20th International Cultural Festival on Sunday, April 7, Ms Ardern said that the multicultural multi-faith event was precisely what made New Zealand the inclusive place it was.
Ever since the Christchurch mosque attack took place earlier last month, the word ‘diversity’ has no longer just remained any other word in the dictionary but his suddenly finding itself redefined. It is garnering a lot of emotions and is being used in the context of peace and brotherhood repeatedly.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Auckland's 20th International Cultural Festival at Mt Roskill War Memorial Grounds (Image: NZ Herald)
Few would have imagined that the international cultural festival started by members of Auckland's former refugee community, and held at the War Memorial Park in Mt Roskill since then, would stand witness in its twentieth year of existence about the changing the resolve of the nation around accepting diversity.
The annual event on Sunday, April 7, received an audience of over 20,000 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Mt Roskill War Memorial Hall, the suburb with that has the huge diversity in its residents living there.
The festival showcased cultural representations in food, clothing, art, and music of the people of different ethnicities living in New Zealand.
People of Middle Eastern origin such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, African nations such as Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan, South American countries Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Chile, Hungary, Mediterranean countries like France, Spain, Italy, Asian countries such as Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Malaysia and representatives of Maori community acting as envoys of their nations presented their cultural richness at the event through their food, music and artifacts.
There were several stalls that not only sold their ethnic clothing but also welcomed the people providing free tea and food tasting, and taking pictures with each other.
Three elevated music stages located at centre and corner of the War Memorial grounds produced live music, dance shows by different groups and individuals throughout the day.
An information centre and a number of volunteers guided and directed the festivalgoers towards different activities hosted by different groups of people.
Visitors writing their message for the victims of Christchurch mosque shooting at the ChCh Remembrance Stall at AICF 2019 (Image: Michael Neilson/NZ Herald)
The event had arrangements for all age groups, making sure, every toddler to an elderly person, individuals or families – every visitor enjoyed the beauty of the cultural festival.
A corner was set with bouncy castles, face painting and henna-tattoo for children and women, two sections of the ground dedicated for friendly cultural football tournaments, book section sponsored by Auckland Library, community and interfaith stalls to know more about people of different faiths.
Yoga practitioners and promoters, Maori games took one section of the event that shared the space with Muay Thai teachers who too showcased the south Asian combat technique to the audience. #
A notable fact about this event was the involvement of the youngsters in the games and activities at the festival.
“These youngsters are the carriers of the cultural batons, and their active participation and involvement shows a lot of encouragement for us that we will be the future in their hands,” a senior performer at the event told The Indian Weekender.
The festival also dedicated a section of the event ground in memory of the victims and souls lost of the Christchurch mosque attack. The part named ‘Christchurch Mosque Remembrance’ had people writing the message of love and brotherhood and laid flowers and candles for the victims.
“I have come to this event for the first time, and I cannot express my happiness being here- seeing such a huge cultural diversity in one place- the music, the food and the people, I am simply awestruck” Shafique Ahmed, an Indian resident living in Mt Roskill said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and other members of parliament, community and interfaith leaders expressed their joy seeing the diverse community at one place and addressed the crowd with the message of peace and accepting diversity for all.
"Over the past three weeks I have felt the absolute depths of sadness, but I have also felt the depths of pride," she told an audience of hundreds.
"Pride to have been in the privileged position of leading a country that has chosen to respond to a dark tragedy in the way that it has.
"If I have been reminded of anything these past three weeks, it is that we are an incredibly lucky country.
"Lucky to have the diversity we have, 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. We are lucky to be an inclusive, empathetic and compassionate place," PM Jacinda Ardern said.