Civic and church leaders have been quick to offer support for the Muslim community in Mataura after the shooting of Muslims attending prayers in Christchurch on Friday.
Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said he was deeply saddened by Friday’s events.
“As I watched the tragedy unfold on Friday I was overcome by a myriad of emotions, from shock and disbelief to anger that this evil had come to our country.
“The callous actions of the person responsible is an offence against everything we, as a country, stand for,” Mr Hicks said.
The event was a life-defining moment for him.
“I now realise I need to be more vigilant about what I say and how I say it.
“We need to be aware our conversations reflect who and what we are.”
It was important to address the issues that had surfaced after the event.
“Bigotry and hate have no place in our hearts, and we all have a part to play to ensure it has no place in our community. If we do not, we can be sure that racism and violence will follow.
“We may, as a nation, have lost our innocence on Friday but we have not lost our sense of what is right and just.”
St Andrew’s Presbyterian minister the Rev Helen Martin said a prayer vigil at the church was well attended on Sunday evening by about 150 people.
“We were numbed, we were sickened, we were shocked and the only possible response immediately was gathering together and inviting the entire community to pray for our Muslim brothers and sisters,” Ms Martin said.
It was hard making sense of the shootings.
“We’re all agreed that what happened in Christchurch was evil and we don’t use that word lightly. and a lot of people have said ‘we just can’t understand it’.
“And no we can’t, but we’re not meant to be able to understand evil – evil is the ultimate nonsense.”
The group sang the national anthem, which was fitting.
“Verse one, ‘in the bonds of love we meet’. and that’s what we were doing.
Mataura Presbyterian Church minister the Rev Tau Ben-Unu said it was important for the Muslim community to know they were not alone.
“[We are] standing side by side with them, standing against the evil that we witnessed in Christchurch,” Mr Ben-Unu said.
He took a bouquet of flowers on behalf of the three Mataura churches and placed it at the mosque on Saturday.
Mataura Community Board chairman Alan Taylor said there had been much public discussion of the shootings but he believed the words of the national anthem were appropriate at this time.
“Let’s not lose sight of what we sing and reflect on each word,” Mr Taylor said.