In New Zealand, we’ve heard with sadness about attacks on religious groups around the world. We believed they could never happen in our peaceful nation. How wrong we were.
Yesterday afternoon, I turned on television at the usual time to watch The Chase. I was surprised to see Simon Dallow the Channel One news anchor talking about an event in Christchurch. As I watched and listened. it became obvious that this was a major occurrence. As further information became available, I realized this event was an horrific slaughter of people attending prayers in a mosque. Then I earned that a second mosque was involved and finally that the shooter had been arrested.
Our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to the country and for the country. Her words were sincere and heartfelt. She said what I certainly believe. Immigrants and refugees to New Zealand are us and anyone committing such an atrocity is not us. We later heard that the shooter was not a Kiwi but he had been living in our country. I wondered why he’d chosen Christchurch as a target. Surely the city had suffered enough.
Shock robbed many people of the right words to express their feelings. What can you say when something so terrible happens in a place that had not experienced terrorism? It was dreadful enough when we thought that ten people had died but as the night wore on, the death toll rose. This morning we learned that 49 people had died and others were seriously injured and currently in hospital. The numbers are unbelievable.
I noticed that somebody posted the second verse of the New Zealand national anthem on Facebook. The words about welcoming people from every creed and race are eerily appropriate. The anthem also says we wish to be guarded from dissension, envy and hate. Of course we do but we’ve joined other counties with this horrendous act. We’ve lost our innocence.
What will be the result of the Christchurch shooting? Gun control should be one of them. There’s no need for civilians to own semi- automatic weapons. The other outcome might be that people of all creeds come closer together. At the moment this is happening with messages of solidarity from many religious groups. But as memories fade, will these connections continue? I’d like to believe so but there are extremists everywhere and they are able to fly under the radar and visit any country.
I end with my sincere condolences to everyone involved in the tragedy. I hope that we can address the roots of intolerance and discrimination and become the compassionate people described in our nation anthem.