Muslim PSA members in MSD in Christchurch speak out
When MSD case manager Sami Shariff arrived in Christchurch following the March 15 terror attacks he didn’t know quite what to expect
“Back in India I had seen hardships, but here was bandages, blood and death”
The PSA delegate had come to help lead a team of 13 Muslim case managers who were to provide wrap-around support to victims and their families.
“We can speak multiple languages, Farsi, Hindi, Urdu, and could support them in culturally appropriate ways.
“We went to prayers with them. We went to the mosques when they reopened, to the memorial services. We became a part of this grief.”
One couple Sami worked with had only recently been reunited in Christchurch. The wife had left Bangladesh to join her husband there after seven years apart.
On the morning of the attacks he dropped her at the Al Noor Mosque and went to find a carpark. While he was away the woman met the attacker and was shot.
Neither could speak English but at the hospital the woman told Sami in Urdu, “I came all this way to die”.
After sustaining multiple injuries she was left a paraplegic. Sami helped organise her visa and a lawyer to assist the couple. He remains in contact with them and other families.
“Dealing with these clients was not easy, they came with distress. But the most important thing which I realised was listening to their stories.”
The case managers, who were mostly PSA members, flew back and forwards from Auckland for seven weeks after the attacks.
The team looked after each other, coming together in the evenings for dinner. “It was amazing teamwork.”
Sami says EAP counselling sessions were also beneficial.
“You are told, you are not in their situation. You are a problem solver, you don’t want to become part of the problem.”
Despite that Sami says everybody has been affected by what they witnessed, and he is hopeful some sessions with Muslim counsellors will also be organised.
Looking back Sami says it is hard to believe that he was involved in such work.
“It was satisfying I was of some help to those people. When the clients thanked us, they had tears in their eyes.”
Sami says the support from the public was great initially, but there is a need for more education about Islamophobia.
“I am a Muslim but I don’t believe in extremist views, and there are so many others in the same boat,” he says.
“Get to know us. Look at my commonalities, I have the same needs. I just believe in some other God.”
Sami says people need to work together towards the common goals of peace and forgiveness.