This is our home
Vibrant flowers gild the gates of the Christchurch mosques, each bouquet laid with trembling hands, representing a beautiful solidarity amidst a heart-rending grief. “This is your home,” wrote a Wellington artist, and “you should have been safe here.”
But the flowers will, eventually, wither away. It is up to us to make sure that when they do, what they represent will endure. That all New Zealanders will not only feel at home here, but be safe, regardless of their race or religion. Already, we are seeing how an evil act has been met with love, how the precious lives lost have brought us closer together—how our hearts have broken yet our bonds of aroha stronger than ever before.
This is your home, you should have been safe here
Our Prime Minister has been a shining light amidst the darkness, radiating both strength and compassion in equal brilliance. Her leadership has been a salve and shoulder to those mourning, and, I believe, will help hasten the healing of our collective wounds.
Our scars, however, will remain. We must continue as we have begun. We cannot live as if these scars don’t exist going about life how we did before, but most importantly, we must not respond in a spirit of fear.
For fear is the ultimate motivation of this attack—the white supremacist ideology fueled by terror, ignited by hate, and justified by ignorance. The deepest ignorance is the desecration of human dignity, the idea that some humans aren’t as inherently valuable as others. That, certainly, is not “us.” But Brenton Tarrant is also not a nameless monster who came from nowhere, an anomaly we can shake our hands from. He was alone during his attack, yes, but spurred on by the howls of faceless others in shadowy corners of the web—some, assuredly, logging on in our own country. He isn’t mentally unwell, just extremely deluded. And just because he didn’t grow up here, doesn’t make this not our problem. He is human too—and in that sense part of “us”—and the moment we begin to dehumanise and distance ourselves from this, we are falling right into his trap.
We must paradoxically be vulnerable ourselves by seeking and cherishing relationships with those who are different to us
We need to seek to understand so we can prevent others doing the same. This is New Zealand now, and us is a diverse group. Views must be confronted, not shut out and ignored. We must get serious about so-called casual racism, and at the same time ensure reasonable democratic debate around issues like immigration and national values are not silenced. Policies like banning semi-automatic weapons and cracking down on irresponsible social media giants will make our shores less vulnerable to hate. But to be a true stronghold, we must paradoxically be vulnerable ourselves by seeking and cherishing relationships with those who are different to us—kanohi ki te kanohi: face to face. A nation marked by these encounters will never be overcome by terror and division.
The flowers will wither and the scars will remain. We must honour those who lost their lives and defy the ideas of the man that took them by fervently seeking to uphold and protect human dignity in Aotearoa New Zealand.