A Tragedy Close to Home Shows Us Who We Really Are

I have seen, and sadly experienced (on Twitter mostly), people from outside our community and New Zealand itself making rather unfair commentary on our country and society. There are people talking about “how bad white people are” (i.e. white supremacy and white privilege). Yes, the terrorist was someone who seemed to support white supremacy and was obviously Islamophobic. No, he is not a New Zealander. He didn’t even live in Christchurch and wasn’t even considered permanently resident in New Zealand. And no, he doesn’t represent us — white or not — or who we are as a nation.

It boils down to this:

A foreign pro-white-supremacy terrorist attacked two mosques and killed 50, and injured 50 more, of our Muslim neighbours, including children and elders. Our community, and our country, warmly and openly welcomed these wonderful people as refugees fleeing war zones, immigrants wanting a better life in a peaceful country, and foreign nationals coming to study, work, or even trying to emigrate to New Zealand. They were and are all welcome as long as they believed in peace and working towards the greater good of New Zealand. And, they were and are doing that, and many, many of them were New Zealanders (citizens or permanent residents) first and foremost. Our neighbours, friends, and family.

If you have a chance to look at the news bulletins from our media from over the last few days — with “Christchurch Terrorist Attacks” stamped on the corner, which brings tears and a pang of anxiety — you will see who Kiwis really are.

The news presenters and reporters, both at home and abroad, sometimes are nearly crying.

In news stories, you see the reporter hug the interviewee or give a reassuring stroke of the arm. In particular, tonight, the son of an iman bears his soul to New Zealand, the pain and hurt too much to bear; the reporter gives him a big, long, heart-felt hug.

Ordinary Kiwis are breaking down, performing the haka, praying or gathering in a circle and singing our national anthem.

The biggest, baddest gang members, within a metre or so of cops armed with AK47s, are putting their arms around our Muslim friends and consoling them with such concern and love that you’d think they’d known each other for a million years.

Our ambulance, emergency services and medical staff working so hard to help those people in need, staying calm and professional throughout even though their hearts were breaking, some of who did it with no regard for their own safety because they first and foremost want to help those in medical need because we all bleed the same blood.

Strangers bring the police on cordons food, water, and other sustenance, so they can stand watch while their colleagues gather the evidence they need to bring this monster to justice.

Everyday ordinary people from all walks of life are bringing flowers, pictures, signs, cards to designated areas to express their grief and show solidarity (even in some cases, handing them to our police officers so they can put them nearer the scene of the murders) and show their love to our Muslim neighbours and try to convey to them that, “THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE”.

Our Prime Minster, seeing a Muslim woman holding her child uncontrollably crying, draws that woman tight and holds her, uttering reassuring words when you can see on the Prime Minister’s face that her own heart is breaking into a million pieces with not only the other mother’s heart but the hearts of the nation.

This caring group of individuals, 5 million strong, is who we are. European, Maori, Tongan, Fijian, British, Irish, American, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian, Canadian, Chilean, Australian, and so on — No matter where we come from, if we call New Zealand home, we are Kiwis, united against hate, united against the person who did this to us.

This terrorist does not even represent the ideals, love, and compassion many people of his own ethnicity in his home country espouse. And I don’t believe for a second that many people in his home country believe the horrible things this man believes, or support the horrible actions this terrorist undertook.

So please: don’t post messages trying to divide or attack our community, our nation, and our values (they aren’t true, and we are working hard to improve our country to make it fairer for all people, even though honestly we are doing a pretty good job); and call out those who blatantly try to do so. We are a peaceful nation full of mostly harmonious people from many different backgrounds striving towards an inclusive, loving, open, tolerant society where we can exist alongside one another as neighbors: celebrating our differences and embracing our similarities.

No matter who you are or where you are from, please let us strive towards peace and equality for all.

Thank you, and peace be with you and your loved ones.