© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

One man wants to keep spreading aroha to stop hate

Jen Black
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Dr Mazharuddin Syed Ahmed during his seminar  Supplied

Dr Mazharuddin Syed Ahmed experienced the fear and trauma of March 15 and the kindness outpoured afterwards - now he wants to keep it going.

The Christchurch Mosque attack survivor has drawn on his experiences of love and hate before and after the event to discuss how using aroha in Aotearoa can dismantle hate.

Ahmed has documented the love outpoured onto the Muslim community over the past two years. From people forming human chains outside his home to protect his family, to various memorials around the country and donations of food and other necessities.

He is creating a workshop to teach others what he’s learned about the power of kindness post-attack - how people showing kindness changed his fear and allowed him to start recovering and healing.

His workshop will include self-assessment, deconstruction of cognitive biases, and understanding how as humans we are more connected than separated. Ideally, he’d like to see the workshop reach one million people.

During a seminar on Wednesday, he used the example of a flock of starlings to describe the impact of actions in a community.

How Starling Birds Flock - BBC

In the video, it describes when they’re in a flock how they move according to their seven closest neighbours. Although the seven around them may change, the example shows how they act in response to the actions of others around them.

After the Mosque attacks many people knew of someone who was affected, and acted in different ways, spontaneously. Ahmed described how without being asked, the community around Muslims supported them in different ways across the country.

He spoke about how newspapers all had a spontaneous reaction and showed respect to the 51 survivors on the front page.

The people of New Zealand acted spontaneously in accordance with one another in support of those in the Muslim community, he said. Whatever skills and resources people had they used them to help the community.

During the seminar, he emphasised why teaching children from a young age and educating the community on why these sentiments are important would cause people with bad intentions to never come to New Zealand.

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Crying Kiwi Shaun Yeo

Many who attended the seminar agreed, saying education on the topic should become a part of the curriculum. 

Later this month he will present his seminar and workshop to a group of senior police staff, the ministry of education, the department of the Prime Minister and others.  The parties will then discuss ways to take the message further and incorporate it into their various organisations.

Several Christchurch schools have already indicated that they would love to have him come speak.