Remember March 15
Twelve months ago the unthinkable happened to Aotearoa New Zealand. A right wing extremist armed with weapons of mass destruction went on a rampage through a Christchurch mosque and killed 51 human beings and injured another 49.
I can recall the day well. I had been to Aotea Square at Auckland where thousands and thousands of young people protested against climate change and how it was destroying their future. Their demands for urgent action cannot be ignored.
Then on the way back on the train I tuned into twitter and saw disturbing tweets that talked about an incident in Christchurch.
The news became worse and worse. A facebook live streamed video ignited social media. It was an attack based on prejudice against race and religion and contained all the nutty disturbing thought processes that the internet has been able to bastardise.
The country’s response was swift. Armed police appeared on the street. And people joined together.
Jacinda Ardern responded in a most human way, by declaring that they are us and we are one. She captured the country’s revulsion to what had happened in a very simple but perfect way.
The next morning I was at the Ethkick football competition, a locally organised competition where teams from different communities join together and play the beautiful game. The organisers had thought about cancelling the event but had decided that it was important that it proceed. And it was so reassuring to be part of a diverse crowd joined together to celebrate what we share and what makes us distinct.
And over the next week many kiwis reached out to our muslim brothers and sisters. A group of us westies visited the Mosque in West Auckland to pay our respects and to show solidarity. This simple act of solidarity was repeated throughout the country.
Since then the gun laws have been tightened. Some of the parties are paying political games with the second tranche of changes but changes are coming. Our security infrastructure has been beefed up.
And the shooter has failed in his attempt to ignite a race war. New Zealand is still a peaceful place, albeit somewhat older and still scarred by the event.
Kia kaha to the local Muslim community. We are one.
Reprinted from the Standard.