New Zealand Sports Minister Grant Robertson says he hopes that in time Bangladesh’s cricketers and supporters will feel it is safe to return to New Zealand following their team’s narrow escape from the Christchurch mosque shootings.
Robertson told New Zealand Cricket’s awards evening in Auckland on Thursday that he had written to the Bangladesh Minister of Youth and Sport and the president of the country’s cricket board expressing his relief that the team were safe.Team members were on their way to the Masjid Al Noor mosque when the shootings took place there last Friday. Their third test against the Black Caps, due to start on Saturday, was cancelled and they went home that day instead, escorted to the airport by police.
Robertson said he emphasised in his letters that “violence and hatred shown by one individual must not be allowed to destroy the friendship and respect that the New Zealand and Bangladesh cricket teams and our nations have long shared.
“My hope is that in time the players and supporters will feel safe enough to return to New Zealand and I know that they know that they will be welcomed with open arms.”
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson said after the awards that cricket became insignificant as events unfolded last Friday.
“It had been a nice competitive series for a month and for things to end the way it did, cricket as a whole became insignificant.
“There was an opposition team we’d spent time with on the park who have pretty much witnessed what went on and felt threatened in a place you want anybody to feel comfortable. To end like that, it was such a shame and I know all the guys felt terrible.”For Williamson, the last week had been a reminder of how important it is to care for one another.
“It becomes so much about your neighbour, and just the love and care you send for the people that are involved and the victims and the victims’ families in Christchurch and the Muslim community not only there in Christchurch but all around New Zealand.”
“I do think it comes down to the good human qualities that are so important,” he added.
“We’ve seen some horrific ones that send such a strong reminder to everyone that we’re all human beings. That’s where it ends, that’s where it starts, and how you conduct yourself with other human beings is what’s important.”
In his speech, Robertson said sport provided a “tremendous bridge” in New Zealand to bring together diverse populations and cricket was a leader in that regard.
He said he would like to see that inclusion being built on in the coming months and years.
“There is hope to be found in dark days and cricket and sport will once again play a critical role in drawing together our country at this time.”
Robertson included in his speech a message for the grieving families in Christchurch: “We cannot know your grief but we can walk alongside you at every stage of that grief, and we can show you the aroha and the manaakitanga for which New Zealand is known and our resolve that we will find light from this darkest day. We will be with you forever.”
NZ Cricket chairman Greg Barclay led a moment’s silence at the awards ceremony to honour the victims of the shootings.
He said his organisation had been in constant contact with its Bangladesh counterpart and he had passed on sympathy and concern.
“I have expressed to them my shock and outrage that such a shocking act could be perpetrated here in Aotearoa New Zealand, an act that has such horrific memories for the Bangladeshi players and support staff.”
Bangladesh are next scheduled to visit New Zealand in October 2020 for a Twenty20 series.