How young New Zealanders are demonstrating their inclusiveness

by The Listener / 22 March, 2019
From left, Avondale College prefects Alana Rae, Paea Filimoehala, David Tuitama, Tasfia Mahmood, Grace Carr-Shepheard (head girl), Sage Peni, Kiahan Simons-Tipau (head boy) and Cate McIntosh. Photo/Susan Elijas

From left, Avondale College prefects Alana Rae, Paea Filimoehala, David Tuitama, Tasfia Mahmood, Grace Carr-Shepheard (head girl), Sage Peni, Kiahan Simons-Tipau (head boy) and Cate McIntosh. Photo/Susan Elijas/Supplied

Kiwi students provide an inspirational example of how to embrace diversity in the wake of – and even before – the Christchurch attack.

‘I have felt nothing but atawhai’

Not long before the Christchurch tragedy, the experience of Tasfia Mahmood demonstrated the warm inclusiveness of young New Zealanders. Bright, popular and admired, the hijab-wearing Muslim had been elected by students and teachers at one of the country’s biggest high schools, Auckland’s Avondale College, to be in the team of top prefects who lead the school. “I’m honoured to be a Muslim Avondale College leader,” says the deputy head girl. Now, at the forefront of organising student fundraising events for Victim Support, she says that “although the tragedy is terrible and should lead to major changes throughout the country, at the college I have felt nothing but atawhai – kindness. I’ve always believed we are one in New Zealand and the country is proving that now.”

Okirano Tilaia. Photo/Steve Bolton

Okirano Tilaia. Photo/Supplied

‘We feel positivity’

Okirano Tilaia, left, is head boy of Cashmere High School, which lost two students: 14-year-old Sayyad Milne and 16-year-old Hamza Mustafa. “You know, we don’t want to turn to hatred, we don’t want to turn to the negativity because that’s what the killer wanted. He wanted the attention, but we’re not going to give it to him. We’re feeling a sense of community, a sense of positivity, love. We’re not going to let these horrific events define who we are as students, as a community, as a city, and as a nation.” From Seven Sharp

Amira Tarek Abaza, top, and sister Noran. Photo/Supplied

‘Our hearts are shattered’

Sport and nutrition student Amira Tarek Abaza, 21, top, and sister Noran, below, lost close friends in the shootings. Amira: “Our hearts are shattered. Numb is probably a good word to describe it. We’ve always felt safe here and we’re going to continue to always feel safe here. I hope that the community just keeps doing what they’re doing. All he’s done is taken innocent lives. We’re stronger than we ever were before. Noran: “He did not cause division, which is what the aim was. I think he’s brought everybody together.” From RNZ Checkpoint

This article is part of the Listener's special coverage of the Christchurch attack, Not Alone: Aftermath of a Tragedy, in the new issue of the magazine.

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