On the second day of his visit to New Zealand, the Duke of Cambridge spent time with survivors of the Christchurch terror attacks and visited the mosques that had been targeted.
William met with 160 survivors and family members of the victims at the Al Noor Mosque before delivering a heartfelt speech about the resilience of the Muslim community and New Zealand reaction to the attacks.
“You showed the way we must respond to hate: with love. In reaction to tragedy, you achieved something remarkable,” he said.
“The message from Christchurch and the message from Al Noor and Linwood mosques could not be more clear – the global ideology of hate will fail to divide us.”
William told the crowd that he’d come to New Zealand to “help you show the world that he failed,” and that a “terrorist attempted to sow division and hatred in a place that stands for togetherness and selflessness.”
William said that he could not believe the news when he’d heard about the attacks in a “country of peace” like New Zealand, and in Christchurch, “a city that has endured so much more than its fair share of hardship.”
“I have been visiting New Zealand since before I could walk. I have stood alongside New Zealanders in moments of joy and celebration. And I have stood alongside New Zealanders in this city in moments of real pain, after loved ones, homes, and livelihoods had been lost after the 2011 earthquake.
“What I have known of New Zealanders from the earliest moments in my life is that you are a people that look out to the world with optimism. You have a famous strength of character, you have a warm-hearted interest about cultures, religion and people thousands of miles from your shores. You acknowledge, debate and grapple with your own cultural history in a way that has no other parallel in any other nation.
“In a moment of acute pain, you stood up, and you stood together. In reaction to tragedy, you showed something remarkable. I have had reasons myself to reflect on grief and sudden pain, and loss in my own life. In my role I have often seen up close the sorrow of others in moments of tragedy, as I have today.
“What I realise is that of course, grief can change your outlook. You don’t ever forget the shock, the sadness and the pain. But I do not believe that grief changes who you are. Grief, if you let it, will reveal who you are. It can reveal depths that you did not know you had. The startling weight of grief can burst any bubble of complacency and how you live your life. it can help you to live up to the values you espouse.
“This is exactly what happened here in Christchurch on the 15th of March.”
William praised the immediate response by the community and its government in the aftermath of the tragedy:
“You started showing what New Zealand really was, almost immediately. On the road outside these walls, people pulled their cars over and started caring for the victims even when they did not know if it was safe to do so.
“Your neighbours opened their doors as they were fleeing the violence. Your first responders apprehended the killer and immediately worked to save lives in the most challenging of circumstances.
“In the days that followed, thousands of bouquets of flowers filled public spaces in the city, brightening the darkest of moments.”
About Imam Al Fouda, Imam of the Al Noor Mosque, William said that he displayed wisdom and grace in the face of tragedy he’d witnessed firsthand; and about Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, that she showed extraordinary leadership and compassion.
The media was not allowed to stay while William visited with the survivors and families. He then visited the Linwood Mosque to meet with survivors and family members there.