As news filtered through of the deadly Christchurch mosque attacks, the scale of the tragedy was just too big to articulate.
“It was so hard for me to believe it happened here,” she says, one year on.
“I couldn’t speak with my kids when they were asking me why the mosque was locked down, why we couldn’t visit the mosque.
“I was just like, woah, okay, I have to speak with them, but when I have the energy to do that.
“Because I was so hopeless at that time.”
Mai, a Community Centre Advocate, works in the vibrant suburb of Churton Park.
Born in Egypt, she is Muslim, and has been working for Wellington City Council since January 2018.
Following the March 15 attacks, Mai says her family in Egypt were asking her to take off her hijab.
“They said I can be a target easily. I was just telling them: I’m safe here.”
She was inspired by seeing her community come together in grief.
“On the day that I attended the [March 17] vigil at the Basin Reserve I was so impressed by the number of attendees, the flowers, the messages they were sending to the Muslim community.
“I saw just one message in all the people’s eyes; you are not alone. We are all grieving with you, we are all one.
“After grieving we thought we needed to turn this sadness and sorrow into a hope for a change.
“We needed a way to learn more about each other, so we came up with an idea of a multi-faith series called We Are One, where we can engage and understand some of the core values of different religions and cultures.”
We Are One events were held throughout 2019, and included followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Judaism.
With the one-year anniversary on Sunday, Mai has a simple message of hope and resilience to share.
“We are getting stronger than before, and we are opening our hearts and minds to loving one another.
“Last year was a steep learning curve from all aspects. I learnt that when sadness prevails there’s a hope that comes after that.”
EVENTS OF REMEMBRANCE IN THE CAPITAL
- Sunday 15 March: ‘Umah Day Exhibition’, TSB Auditorium, Shed 6, 10am-4pm – A remembrance day event organised by FIANZ in association with Wellington City Council. An exhibition of posters and photos, plus a prayer service, lectures and presentations on Islam from all perspectives – especially Islam as a way of life. This event is designed to showcase the Islamic system and how it approaches various aspects and challenges in modern life.
- Sunday 15 March: Kilbirnie Mosque Open Day, Kilbirnie Mosque, open from 10am-3pm. Includes guided tours of the mosque, ethnic food, a photo exhibition, and names done in Arabic calligraphy.
- Saturday 21 March: Kilbirnie Mosque | International Day for the elimination of racial abuse from 11am-3pm.