Messages of hope and solidarity at Bendigo vigil for Christchurch terror attack victims

Leaders of all faiths have called for love, not hate during a Bendigo vigil for the victims of the Christchurch terror attack. Catholic, Anglican, Jewish, Buddhist and Baha’i representatives have joined leaders of the Muslim community to honour the 50 people who were killed in the New Zealand attack last week.


 


More than a hundred people joined the vigil at the Strathdale Community Centre.

Bendigo Islamic Association president Sameer Syed who organised the event said he was heartened by the large turnout. “Bendigo has always been a very inclusive and very loving city so it didn’t surprise us,” he said. “We wanted everyone in Bendigo to come because it’s not just about us, it’s about everyone.

“Every human being experiences tragedy, so that’s why it was important that everyone came.” A poignant moment of the vigil was when Maori man Desi Winiata performed the traditional Haka to a group of Bendigo’s Muslim community. Mr Winiata then embraced the men, which included Mr Syed, to the applause of the crowd.

 


Buddhist leader Venerable Lhundrup addressed the crowd. Picture: EMMA D’AGOSTINO

Bendigo Police’s Inspector Shane Brundell followed and said it was that display that represented why they were all there. “Seeing people come together from different continents, different cultures, different faiths as one – that’s powerful,” he said. “We’re lucky we live in Australia which is a caring, welcoming and inclusive country. It is all the better for the diversity.

“We do not stand for acts of terror. It will never be justified.”

A representative of Bendigo’s Muslim Community Hyra Usman said the community must continue to remain united together as it has in the past. “I feel so proud that Bendigo has always been proactive in taking initiative to support the Muslims of this city,” she said. “The Christchurch massacre may have achieved its aim of intended destruction but it has failed to incite hatred, fear and dispirit in all of us.

 

Representative of Bendigo’s Muslim Community Hyra Usman. Picture: EMMA D’AGOSTINO

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