A group of New Zealand high school students are raising funds for the Christchurch mosque shooting victims with the “power of flowers” and a message of shared humanity.
Amelia Tyrrell, 17, and her fellow Longburn Adventist College student leaders have collected donations from their classmates to send to the victims of the March 15, 2019, terrorist attacks and their families.
“The mosque shootings were on a Friday afternoon — this meant that Sabbath allowed for much reflection,” said school principal Brendan van Oostveen. “The disbelief and shock gave way to grief and anger, as we navigated uncharted territory. When Monday arrived, we met as a school, as we always do at the start of a week. What do you teach in response to such an act of hate? After chapel, our student leaders team met, and it was agreed that love is always the answer.”
The school’s student leaders decided to hold a “power of flowers” fundraising day, inspired by the wreaths and flowers people have laid at mosques across New Zealand.
“It’s just such a positive image — all these different colors that stand out from each other, but they’re all still flowers and more beautiful together — same as it is for humans,” Tyrrell said.
On Wednesday, March 20, every student and staff member at Longburn Adventist College wore flowers in their hair, around their necks, or printed on brightly colored shirts, and made a donation.
It was deliberately bright and hopeful, in the face of New Zealand’s darkest day, and was a day for people to reflect on how similar we all are, Tyrrell said.
One piece of common ground for Tyrrell was that many of the victims were refugees and immigrants who came here to feel safe. Her family did too. There were two terrorist attacks near their old home in the United Kingdom, and the increased police presence, fear, and uncertainty of when the next attack would come was overbearing, she said.
“My family came here 18 months ago to get away from that feeling, but now it’s here too,” she said.
Fellow student Sophie Pigott, 17, said everyone was feeling anger and despair.
“So we wanted to lift spirits and show there’s a hopeful way forward, together,” she said. “Peace, love, and respect are values shared by Muslims, Christians, and all New Zealanders, and it’s better to build on our similarities rather than focus on differences — not just after a tragedy, but every day.”
“I am so very proud that our student leader team, our school, and our country simply want to ‘show the love,’ ” van Oostveen said. “After all, God is love.”