As New Zealand mourns the devastating terrorist attack in Christchurch, high school students are preparing to speak their mind on racial prejudice and unity in diversity.
As many as 200 students are expected to participate in the The Race Unity Speech Award next month in 14 centres across New Zealand.
The competition is a forum for year 11 to 13 students to share their thoughts on how to improve race relations in Aotearoa.
Zoha Shuaib, 2018 National Runner-Up, says she entered the speech competition last year so young Muslim voices would be heard.
“I knew Aotearoa needed to hear our truth. I knew we needed to show New Zealand what a Muslim looks and speaks like.
“I knew that if the world knows us, they will not fear us, and if they do not fear us, they will not hate us.”
This year’s competition has taken on a special significance following the terrorist attack in Christchurch says Aidan MacLeod, one of the national organisers: “We knew before that racial and religious prejudice can lead to hate and tragic violence, and that the work of promoting unity is serious and vital. But never before has it seemed so urgent.”
Year 12 student Arabella Marshall of Tauhara College is entering the speech competition for the first time this year.
Arabella was one of the leaders of Taupō’s ‘school strike’ for climate change on Friday, and had just finished the march when she heard about the attack in Christchurch.
“I was being interviewed and I’d been expressing my doubts about being hopeful in relation to climate change. When I heard about the massacre it only served to further dampen my sense of optimism”.
Arabella says that events like the Race Unity Speech Awards can help young people regain their sense of hope.
“Going to these sorts of events where people are fighting for change is a way we can get that hope back.”
There’s still time for students to register for the Race Unity Speech Awards via www.raceunity.co.nz until 27 March.
The Speech Awards are organised by the New Zealand Baha’i Community, with sponsorship from the New Zealand Police, the Human Rights Commission and the Hedi Moani Charitable Trust.
The regional heats of the Speech Awards will be held 6-11 April 2019. The National Final of the Race Unity Speech Awards will be held in Auckland on 11 May 2019.