It’s so hard to be far away when something significant happens back home. For our New Zealand delegation at the UN at the Commission on the Status of Women this has been quite an experience.
Doreen from Auckland was sitting on the UN grounds checking on a few messages before the start of another session when she became aware of what was going on in Christchurch. As the tears flowed a woman came and sat next to her and asked her where she was from, when Doreen looked up and responded “New Zealand” through more tears, the beautiful Muslim lady sitting next to her with tears in her eyes, grabbed her hand. For the next few moments they held hands and cried together at the United Nations, worlds apart but united in grief for the events taking place.
"All I could do was cry..and I cried...I cried on the shoulder of a stranger, whose arms were extended and offered me comfort in my time of deep sadness and unbelief. Her warm words flowed with sympathy as she gently held my hand to say we will get through this together as I gurgled out apologies for the devastating actions of one, in the land that is known for diversity, peace and aroha, love, alofa, sarang, ofa…it's where I'm from, Aotearoa, it is my people but the single act of terror is not me, is not us.......her presence represented the 49 that were gone, her scarf covered her head, covered her neck but all I could see was the 49 beings, the 49 families of a community, in my community, in our
community. There was only empathy in her face a sincere understanding..We had attended the gathering of nations to voice equality and justice, we were here for the same cause and purpose.We found the answer in each other, allowing each other to be, in being together in a sisterly embrace with tears of sympathy, kindness, frustration and shame in the foyer of the United nations and although we could not explain and had no words, all we could do was cry....so we cried, we cried together." Dedicated to Sumaya a pillar of strength.
Christine from Baptist Women NZ wrote,
“Yesterday I attended a session at CSW on the Freedom of Religion. People shared stories of persecution for both Muslims and Christians throughout the world. Naively, I didn't even think about NZ while I was listening to these statistics and stories. Today, that naivety has had a rude awakening.”
For Sally and me there would be no rest until we knew our children and family were safe back home after the lock-down at school. That meant a bedtime of 3:00am but even then not much sleep was had as we processed all that was happening in our beloved hometown.
Our ecumenical women’s daily morning worship service lit candles and prayed for our city, our nation and our UN delegation. It was a beautiful thing to be supported by people from countries who know all to well what terrorist attacks feel like. Sally and I visited the 9/11 memorial on Saturday - it seemed fitting as we tried to make sense of everything. Then on Sunday when we attended church, New Zealand was prayed for which was moving for us, then when it was time to 'say hi to the neighbour' we met a lovely lady who noticed our accents and asked us where we were from, when we said New Zealand she immediately enveloped me in a hug because she simply had no words.
Immediately following the attack the NZ delegation (especially our government delegates) were advised to remove anything that would visibly identify us as New Zealanders for our safety in the days following and for the remainder of our time in New York. A sombre reminder of how much on the world map we are now, but not for any reasons we want to be.
We still have a week to go here at the UN and it seems difficult for us to ‘go about our daily business’ of sessions and meetings, but all of a sudden the issues of social protection of our CSW63 theme have become all the more real to us. We understand on a deeper level and now we even have our own story to add. Lord have mercy.