I have felt so paralysed by the events of Friday 15thin Christchurch and am still lost and unable to find an adequate response. It is just too difficult to comprehend and I never imagined such violent-fueled bigotry would invade our peaceful country.
It has been a weekend of: Horror
Loss of innocence
I felt my body closing down inside the intensity of all that was happening. Tears flowed without warning for families and friends of our Muslim community and our country. All our lives have changed forever.
The people murdered and hurt were by-and-large migrants and refugees who had chosen NZ as their home, a safe haven away from the horrors of wars and torture that afflict far-away places. It is heart-breaking, because we are a peace loving country and as Jacinda Adern said: This is not us!
How could such hatred be in our midst and no one be aware? How did this happen? For Christchurch, a city still in recovery from the 2011 earthquake, this new assault is not due to nature but to a heinous hate crime. It will take a very long time to recover from this.
It has certainly been a wakeup call for everyone in Aotearoa, NZ as to just how important it is, in a civilised society, to call out any form of racism. And we must also question the right of anyone to publicly state their bigoted views. Words do matter, especially in today’s media-dominated world. Just as we do not allow physical harm, neither should we allow verbal harm.
The messages we send in our day-to-day conversations, as well as those we listen to, must at all times be checked to ensure they protectour world and all those who live in it. People have been talking about the pernicious effect of the internet in supporting these horrific events and what part these huge internet platforms are playing in encouraging this form of extremism.
Gun control is again an issue here, and our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said simply “I can tell you right now, our gun laws will change”.
We must not forget that at the heart of this is a group of people who will be haunted by this experience for a very long time. Last night, in my hometown of Hamilton we joined thousands of people who came out in support of the Muslim community to show solidarity at an evening vigil. Amongthe many Muslim spokespeople was our local leader Waikato Muslim Association's Dr Asad Moshin who graciously thanked people for the support: "We still don't know how this happened, but we won't let this change New Zealand. A lot of good has come out of this. People didn't know where the mosque was, where the Muslim community was. But we will keep this going. We are so overwhelmed, as a Muslim community, with the support. We are thinking how can we pay back this outpouring of support. Keep us in your prayers.”
New Zealanders have been meeting all over the nation in their thousands to stand with Muslims in their grief and to show solidarity. They have been gathering outside mosques and in community spaces. Flowers and significant messages have been written in cards, fundraising has skyrocketed, people are talking to each other. As our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the incident was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and that the victims had chosen to make New Zealand their home. “They are us,” she said. There is a very strong message to all in her words. ‘We are one people”.
She also said that the person who perpetuated this violence against us is not us. Why not? We must ask ourselves: what happened to this person to generate such bigotry and hate? He stated that as a boy he was not interested in school education, that education had nothing in it for him. Was this the seed that, for him, set him down a path of pure evil? Can we see here the vital importance of engaging children in strength based education from an early age?
I thought it was ironic that we had just posted, last week, on YouTube (third in the series on Learning Stories) a video entitled 'PART 3: A child’s culture cannot enter a classroom before it first enters a teacher’s conscience’. Each of us in our own way through our daily lives can make a difference. Every day as we interact with people, those we agree with and those we do not, we can make sure that hateful racist comments are always challenged and never tolerated. Teachers can write Learning Stories that will make visible what we value in our communities. They are such powerful opportunities to demonstrate our care, compassion and empathy. A Learning Story is alsoa formidable platform to promote the best in everyone.
Nga mihi nui,
Thank you to Stuff.co.nz for the use of photographs in this blog, please find all photos at this site.
In pictures: Christchurch shooting | Stuff.co.nz