An open love-letter to New Zealand on freedom

12 June 2020, 13:08 UTC |

 

Thank you New Zealand. I want to acknowledge that it’s been, and will be, difficult. But the recent thoughtfulness for others, during our collective efforts to get through levels, has been nothing short of incredible. The way communities have pulled together to make sure no one is left behind – I am so proud.

 

As someone lucky to call New Zealand home I have enjoyed freedoms not everyone around the world has. I've had an education, a home and good healthcare. I’ve been fortunate to have a job, have the ability to go where I please, and to take holidays in the sun. I’ve enjoyed meeting up with friends and family. I have enjoyed a life of freedom. But for the sake of our collective health these freedoms were, for the first time for many, limited.

 

I had it lucky in my bubble. But it still wasn’t easy. And I know many people struggled. I didn’t have the freedom to enjoy my friends, to get out of Auckland, to sit by the bed of my very sick father. I missed the freedom to just pop down the road to my mother's house and have a cup of tea, a hug and a chat.

 

But because of our dedication to each other, we have saved many, many people from the spread of COVID-19. That is powerful and we should all acknowledge it. Additionally, this newfound care for one another – I hope these beautiful connections and extended bubbles of kindness continue.

 

And my thoughts remain with others. For so many, it wasn’t and still isn’t easy. My heart goes out to people who’ve lost their jobs or whose careers are now insecure. It goes out to persecuted families overseas who’ve been accepted under our refugee quota programme to rebuild their lives here in New Zealand only to be delayed because of COVID-19. It goes out to people struggling through extended isolation in prisons and to the children we keep putting in adult police cells because there’s no room at proper facilities. I think about you often. And the limits on your rights.

Meg de Ronde, Executive Director Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand 

 

I am thinking about those whose liberties remain restricted. The systematic repression of the Uyghur people detained in Xinjiang. Or the brutality in the name of the ‘War on Drugs’ in the Philippines and Cambodia.

 

But at the same time, our will to change our lives and the lives of others for the better is stronger than ever.

 

The collective care we’ve shown in the past two months has been remarkable. Amnesty International’s campaign aimed at showing the sheer magnitude of care in New Zealand – The Big Kindness Count – surpassed the number of cases of COVID-19 within days and is about to exceed 22,000 acts of kindness. We can't let that slip as we come out of quarantine. Now is the time to be bold. We have to let go of the old ways that didn't work and embrace new ways that respect everyone, everywhere.

Meg de Ronde, Executive Director Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand 

 

As we settle into our new norms, let’s hold the considerations of other's needs close to our hearts. Let’s continue to create a society where every life is precious, and everyone is given the opportunity to flourish no matter their background. Next time you see a story about refugees, indigenous rights, women's rights or people held in our Corrections facilities, please see the human beings behind the story – because we are all people. We all deserve the dignity we expect for ourselves. We all deserve a safe home and a place where we are free. I urge you to stay more involved in your communities, to become more active and expressive, to sign petitions, to write letters and have meetings with your local MPs. Because every bit counts, your voice is powerful and every person matters.
 

What you do today has immediate effects for vulnerable people. But it’s more than that. What you do today can build the caring society of tomorrow.

 

Meg de Ronde is the Executive Director of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand, which has launched the Humanity Appeal