Jacinda Ardern Thanks Australia For Support After Christchurch Attack In Emotional Interview
Waleed Aly and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have shared an emotional hug, as she gave her first interview since the Christchurch terror attack that left 50 people dead.
Ardern has been praised worldwide for her compassionate and powerful response to the violence, unparalleled in her country's modern history. From announcing plans to ban firearms, to mourning with the Muslim community in a head scarf, the Kiwi PM's actions in recent days have been admired around the world.
On Monday, she told The Project host Aly it had been a shocking and difficult time for the country, and for her.
"I’m deeply sad," she admitted when asked how she felt.
"There are moments where there aren’t cameras and where I’ve just been with the families, and it’s fair to say those are very emotional moments."
Aly was invited to New Zealand by the Kiwi PM after his impassioned editorial in the wake of the attack went viral across the world. Delivered just hours after the alleged shooter walked into two mosques during Friday afternoon prayer, the video has clocked up millions of views around the world.
The interview with Ardern began in an unusual way, as she asked him for a hug.
"It might seem strange but I saw your piece on The Project ... it was incredible," she said.
It was the second Prime Minister that Aly has interviewed in the past week, but it's quite a contrast to the combative and controversial interview conducted with Australian PM Scott Morrison on Friday.
Ardern has not taken much time to herself in the last 10 days since the attack, saying it would be "selfish" to do so.
"I feel such a draw to be focused on doing what’s needed for those who have lost loved ones. Too much else feels a bit selfish right now," she told Aly.
"My family have come to me; we’re a very family-friendly environment and so my family have come to visit me in the [New Zealand parliament] when they can and I have my parents helping at the moment with Neve as well, so I’m the last one that anyone should be worried about."
Ardern has been widely congratulated for her response to the attack, with people in the United States, Europe and Australia saying they wanted her as their leader. Such praise was waved away by the Kiwi PM, as she praised how her country has come together to oppose the hate and violence.
"I feel that what the world has seen is just who we are," she said gracefully.
"We’re a nation of 200 ethnicities, over 60 languages, we see ourselves as peaceful and inclusive. The act has been so counter to that, but the response -- the flood of flowers outside the mosques, the spontaneous song where people have gathered, the real desire to give a sense of safety and security for people to return to worship -- that’s New Zealand."
Conversely, Ardern's decision to wear a head scarf has been criticised by some in Australia's media circles. She doesn't shy away from it.
"I gave it very little thought ... it was so obvious to me that that would be the appropriate thing to do," she said in response to the images seen around the world.
"What I underestimated was that it gave people a sense of security. It didn’t occur to me for a moment that there would be those women in the community that would feel unsafe wearing… their faith, and so if in wearing the hijab as I did gave them a sense of security to continue to practice their faith, then I’m very pleased I did it."
My job is to make people feel safe. The idea that people do not, I find deeply distressing, and it's my job to bring that sense of security back.
Ardern said it "did take some time to process" that the alleged shooter was an Australian citizen.
But she praised how Australia had sent support to their trans-Tasman neighbours and friends, and thanked the country for their help -- which included lighting up the sails of the Sydney Opera House with New Zealand's silver fern, countless vigils and ceremonies across the nation, and donations to support affected communities.
"To Australia, I just say thank you for the solidarity and the support, and we’re family," she said.
"We are absolutely family and so we’ve felt that support acutely and the message I’ve been sharing with every global leader is our job is to share love and support for our Muslim communities around the world."
Featured image: The Project