As we try to absorb the horror of the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, we share with you the reflections of group escort Brian Galligan, upon returning home with our recent group to Australia and New Zealand...
"Meeting initially as a group of strangers, we journeyed through Australia and New Zealand to be transformed into a cohesive group of friends, watching out for each other and caring for each other. That does not simply come to an end when we arrive home for we have wonderful shared memories of the beautiful places we saw and people that we met along the way. This all culminated with that very special Farewell Dinner in the Private Dining Room of the Rydges Latimer Hotel in Christchurch.
I know that many of us were struck by the similarities between New Zealand and Canada in our respective nation’s deliberate embracing of multiculturalism, as a model of peace and understanding for the rest of the world to learn from. As a Craig Tour Escort for several years, occasionally to places that still struggle with the concept of accepting those who are different as being equal, I have watched many times as Craig's travellers, as if by nature, reach out to strangers and engage in friendly conversation while handing out their Maple Leaf Pins. By doing so, we become Canadian Ambassadors for peace, building bridges for future dialogue and meaningful relationships. While we may not be perfect ourselves, as Canadians we have so much to offer towards making the world a better, more inclusive and safer place for all. We must never allow fear to take that away from us.
On our last day in Christchurch we drove along Deans Avenue, pulled into Hagley Park and stopped the coach alongside the Avon River so we could stroll in the peace and serenity of the Botanical Gardens. I’m sure that most of you by now, have recognized that we were just steps away from the Al Noor Mosque that at Friday prayers became the scene of one of the worst mass shootings in world history. This was an act of terrorism aimed not only at creating grief and fear for Muslims at prayer, but also an attempt to encourage hatred and division within society. The terrorists also know that planting fear of encountering hatred and violence in the hearts and minds of the vast majority of people who are good, and who do not share the terrorists evil ideology, can nevertheless cause them to be changed. They become a “silent” majority, afraid to speak out to condemn intolerance and hate speech, for fear of reprisal.
I encourage you not to be silent and not to allow this act of terrorism to stain the wonderful memories that we have from our trip. Be grateful that we saw Australia and New Zealand at their very best and continue to travel the world. Share your Maple Leaf Pins, your encouraging stories of a better hope-filled multicultural future that awaits us all and speak out in love against those who would seek, by any means, to spread hatred and division amongst the beautiful diverse tapestry of people, with whom we share this planet."