Christchurch, March 13 (IANS) A year on from the Christchurch terror attack on two mosques that killed 51 people, New Zealand has “fundamentally changed”, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
Ardern was speaking here during events commemorating the March 15, 2019 attack that also injured 49 people, reports Efe news.
“A year on, I feel New Zealand and its people have fundamentally changed,” Ardern said.
“I can’t see how you could have an event like this and not (change).”
Some of the city’s Muslim community participated in Friday’s prayers at Horncastle Arena to mark the attack, but thousands are expected to attend a national remembrance service to be held Sunday in Christchurch.
“The challenge for us will be ensuring in our everyday actions, and every opportunity where we see bullying, harassment, racism, discrimination, calling it out as a nation,” she said.
“That is when we’ll show we each individually have a role to play in making sure that New Zealand has changed fundamentally for the better.”
Ardern acknowledged the impact the attacks had on the Muslim community, as well as the generosity it has shown since.
While memorials are not traditional in Muslim communities, some of the public wished to mark the day in a remembrance ceremony, she said.
Speaking of the gun reform launched in the days after the attack, in which the government banned semi-automatic weapons and assault weapons such as those used in the shootings, the prime minister said 60,907 prohibited firearms had since been removed from circulation and NZ$102.2 million ($62 million) paid in compensation in a buyback scheme.
Two months after the attack, in which the Australian accused of the shootings live-streamed his assault for 17 minutes, Ardern launched the Christchurch Call effort along with French President Emmanuel Macron and other heads of state and government, as well as tech sector leaders.
The was aim to eliminate violent extremist content online. Ardern said on Friday the online circulation of videos of terror attacks had lessened since.
Asked if eliminating this type of online content was “too high a goal”, the Prime Minister said, adding: “No, because I can’t imagine signing up to anything that says ‘eliminate just a little bit of terrorism and violent extremist content’.”
“It is a large aspiration, but that has to be our aspiration,” she added.