Yesterday, a white supremacist walked into the Masjid al Noor mosque and the Linwood Masjid with an assault rifle in his hands and hatred in his heart and Christchurch, a city still recovering from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, will not be the same.
Around 3:00pm yesterday, I was sitting at my desk on the University of Canterbury’s Ilam campus, going about my day. I was responding to emails when a co-worker came in and told us there’d been a shooting.
We immediately turned to the news to find out what was happening and shortly after, an email came through that the campus was on lock-down until further notice. Soon we could hear sirens in the distance and helicopters in the air.
Stories were coming in about families being separated as they fled for their lives. About how the attack started as the Imam was giving his sermon, a time meant to be filled with quiet reflection.
Growing up in the US, we’ve become accustomed, perhaps resigned, to news cycles which contain stories of hate-crimes and attacks perpetrated by people who fear and resent those who are “different”. Just ask any American born before 1995, we all know that there was life before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Living in Israel after college, I grew accustomed to seeing soldiers with machine guns everywhere and seeing photos of the destruction caused by rockets shrieking through the sky and landing in residential neighborhoods, violence fueled by religious hatred.
When Pete and I moved to New Zealand I thought I’d left that all behind.
As this horrific event unfolded, hundreds of young students had gathered in Cathedral Square to protest for more action on fighting climate change. We should have been celebrating their passion for making the world a better place instead of worrying about how many people weren’t going to get another tomorrow.
How could something so horrifying happen here?
I woke up today to the news that 49 people are dead with many more injured. I am appalled by this vicious attack on people who were peacefully worshipping in their House of Prayer.
I hope that these attacks don’t lead to xenophobia, that New Zealanders continue to embrace people of all religions, cultures, and ethnicities. Kiwis’ openness and acceptance of diversity is one of their finest traits. New Zealand has always been a safe place and that sense of security is what these terrorists tried to attack.
They wanted to fuel the fire of fear, hatred, and misunderstanding.
But everything I have seen on the news and across social media tells me that these people will not be successful. Messages of support have been pouring out. As people marked themselves safe on Facebook, I saw so many green dots, which showed help being offered, a ride home or a safe place to stay, clothes, food…
I will never forget the moment the Jacinda said definitively and defiantly, “This is not us.”
I stand with the Muslim Community in Christchurch, in New Zealand, and across the world. We must be unified in our commitment to love and understanding, celebrating our differences while strengthening the connections that thread us together, our shared humanity, our capacity for love and community, and our commitment to making this world a better place.
Kia kaha, New Zealand.
Art Credit: Ruby Jones (@rubyalicerose)