Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has stood with world leaders in honouring the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and noted the relevancy of his values in the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attacks.
Ardern was one of several speakers at a United Nations (UN) event to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the man who led India's non-violent independence movement and expressed values of peace, tolerance and kindness.
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In her speech, Ardern identified three aspects of Gandhi's message that she believes carries significant weight - tolerance, equality and the sanctity of non-violence.
"These are values that we should keep at the forefront of our minds. Not just in good times, but especially when faced with difficult choices," she said.
Ardern then went on to discuss the relevance of Gandhi's values in the aftermath of the March 15 attacks, with the New Zealand Muslim community opening their doors for all Kiwis.
"Their act of peace was a powerful and empowering one. In opening their doors they sowed the seeds of diversity, humanity, forgiveness and aroha. They broke a potential cycle of violence."
"At a time when religion could have been used to divide us, we saw the unifying power of interfaith and intercultural understanding. We witnessed – as Gandhi himself understood – the inner truth of all faiths. The commonalities of dignity, of humanity and compassion that bind all people, all religions."
She said that we must strive to build societies inclusive to all people, whatever their background, reject bigotry and embrace kindness.
"Let us all recommit to those principals as we acknowledge 150 years of an enormous legacy."
Before her address, the Prime Minister was filmed standing alongside the likes of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
They are seen standing around a "plasma orb" - as an announcer called it - and placing their hands on it as music begins to swell and a video opening the event begins.
As well as launching a commemorative postage stamp of Gandhi, Asian media reports that the event also acted as the inauguration of the Gandhi Solar Park, which is found in the UN headquarters where India has gifted 193 solar panels - 1 for every UN member state.
The shot of the leaders with their hands on the orb is similar to an image from 2017 where Trump was pictured with his hands on a similar plasma ball.
Full speech - Speech to 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi:
Kia ora, and Namaste.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the host of this event; Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Our presence here is a reflection of the close ties between New Zealand and India, but also of the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, which was felt to the furtherest corners of our globe.
I would also like to acknowledge my fellow speakers.
As political leaders, there is much we can learn from Gandhi as we search for common ground to address the world’s pressing challenges.
For me, there are three aspects of Gandhi’s message that carry particular weight:
Tolerance. Equality. And the sanctity of non-violence.
These are values that we should keep at the forefront of our minds.
Not just in good times, but especially when faced with difficult choices.
In New Zealand, we have recently witnessed the tragic consequences of intolerance and of violence. An act of terrorism that sought to divide us. That took the lives of 51 innocent worshippers.
Yet in the face of this act of hatred and violence, the New Zealand Muslim community opened their doors for all New Zealanders and the world to grieve with them.
Their act of peace was a powerful and empowering one. In opening their doors they sowed the seeds of diversity, humanity, forgiveness and aroha. They broke a potential cycle of violence.
At a time when religion could have been used to divide us, we saw the unifying power of interfaith and intercultural understanding. We witnessed – as Gandhi himself understood – the inner truth of all faiths. The commonalities of dignity, of humanity and compassion that bind all people, all religions.
The 15 March attacks are a tragedy we will not forget, and that require us to reflect on what we need to do to be the society we want to be. But we have also been reminded of the power of holding true to the values of tolerance, equality and non-violence in the face of hatred and violence.
As Ghandi himself said “The very first step in nonviolence is that we cultivate in our daily life, as between ourselves, truthfulness, humility, tolerance, and loving kindness.”
We must build societies that are inclusive of all religions, races and gender, and that solve disputes without recourse to violence. New thinking is also required to address the inequality that continues to blight the existence of many.
These are challenges for my country, New Zealand, just as they are for others.
Turning to equality: New Zealand’s focus on wellbeing, going beyond traditional economic measures of success, is about addressing inequality. As are our efforts to make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.
Like Gandhi, we should not be afraid to stand up and transform our societies for the better.
Ghandi also modelled the expression of political dissent through non-violent opposition. Gandhi’s 240 mile peaceful march across Western India to protest against the tax on salt created a path for countless other non-violent political movements throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries. We continue to see this power today as our young people march to effect change across the globe.
Creating a safe space for the expression of different ideas; for political debate and dialogue whether it be on the streets or online remains an essential part of democratic and pluralistic societies. It is critical in resolving tensions in a peaceful manner.
I believe that Gandhi’s legacy is as relevant today as it ever was.
It calls on us to reject bigotry and intolerance, and embrace kindness and truth.
It calls on us to strive for equality, no matter how difficult and entrenched systems are.
And it demands that we recognise the lasting value of peace.
Let us all recommit to those principals as we acknowledge 150 years of an enormous legacy.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou kātoa