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Thursday, 04 April 2019 15:49

Welcome neighbour signs out in Christchurch New Zealand

welcome neighbour somali english arabic

Welcoming neighbourhood message set to spread across Christchurch

As a Christchurch born and bred peace-builder, I have a simple message for Cantabrians. “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbour.”

I have recently returned from the United States where I studied conflict transformation and peace-building at the Eastern Mennonite University in May 2018  I first arrived in Harrisonburg, these signs were on front lawns. For a Kiwi so far from home, away from family, the signs were warm and welcoming.

Once I returned to New Zealand, I had wanted to begin the initiative in Christchurch, but my time has been taken up working, completing a research programme and procrastinating. However, following the terror attacks of March 15, I felt compelled to communicate a message of respect, trust and peace to my community. I have placed the first sign at my gate. I’ve had a few made, but if others want to participate, more could be produced. I call for those interested to contact me to lodge an interest in placing a sign at their home too. If there was enough interest, I would be delighted to produce more.

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I have produced this first sign in Somali, English and Arabic out of respect of many of the people affected by recent violence. It is my personal message to everyone living in Christchurch that it the simple things that create loving-spaces, to eliminate racism, one home at a time.

The “Welcome Your Neighbours” sign grew out of an idea at Mennonite Church, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where Mr Marriott studied conflict transformation and peace-building. A pastor, Matthew Bucher began the initiative to reach out to his neighbours and neighbourhoods, welcome those who come from different backgrounds and places and practice hospitality through the open doors of their communities.

The display of the signs has spread across the United States. People are encouraged to join together in welcoming the stranger, getting to know your neighbours, hosting and being hosted, reaching out across divides, providing shelter, seeking justice, and sharing the love with friend and stranger.

The original idea sparked many people in many places to print signs and become focal points of connection for those willing to make this simple statement of welcome. From its beginning in a conversation on a Sunday morning to its global reach today, the movement serves as a tangible signpost encouraging us to reach out to our neighbours, build bridges of connection, and practice hospitality through the open doors of our communities.

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