It was 3am on the 15th of March and I couldn’t sleep. I’d just wrapped up a call with a colleague in Sydney some two hours before and I was hoping to get much needed rest but my insomnia had other plans. My phone ping’d with an alert- there’d been a shooting in a mosque in Christchurch New Zealand and at the time, twelve people had been reported killed. I thought it was a mistake; it couldn’t possibly be New Zealand, the news must have it wrong. It is one of the most harmonious places in the world. They have a great cricket team, they do the Haka, everybody loves the Haka because of its significance. As if any of that should make a difference to what I was reading. Still l refused to believe it wasn’t the wrong news blast.
But it wasn’t. And there was much worse to come.
My first thought after re-reading the news, was to reach out to one of my mates who’d only just moved back home to Auckland. I asked if she and her family were okay, because I’d just seen the news. Those three dots were the longest moments of my night and when she replied to say she was okay, I was both relieved and saddened. This was indeed happening in a place she called home and felt safe, in a city about two hours from her by plane. As more details were released the disbelief settled and dread turned to anger when the motives of the gunman were made known. Bigotry. Such hatred unleashed on a group of unsuspecting people who’d gathered to pray on a Friday afternoon as is customary in their religion. 42 victims at Al Noor Mosque and 7 victims at Linwood Islamic Centre, both in Christchurch. One victim would later die in hospital. Mothers, fathers, children, grandchildren, husbands, wives… all victims of a coward, a terrorist- another mediocre white man who felt hard done by in a world that did not celebrate his supremacy in comparison to another.
Some would try to wonder how this could happen or why. Please, let’s not do that. Let us not play ignorant in the midst of such devastation because to do so would be to dishonour the victims and their loved ones. Let us not question his motives because he makes it quite clearly known, what and who inspires him. Let us not wonder how this could have happened when we hear such vile rhetoric from politicians in positions of power. Let us not try to decipher or understand why this happened when we quite clearly know why this happened. This was not a random act of violence, this was a calculated act of terrorism, by a terrorist emboldened by men in positions of power who try to lace their right wing racist ideology as free speech; those who whip up a frenzy of hate. To call this anything but, is a misnomer.
As I said my prayers that morning, the scripture was about how we ought to forgive our enemies and pray for those who do wrong to us; this was the first time I ignored the teachings of scripture. Rather, I challenged God to do better by the people of Christchurch. I refuse to say a prayer for people who want to destroy any kind of good in the world. Men who kill innocent people for the mere fact that they are different to them. I refuse to waste another word of prayer on the enemy of any force of good in this world. Rather, I say my prayers for the victims and those left behind to deal with the unbearable loss through no fault of theirs. I pray for them in the days and months and years to come, every day they are forced to live with pain most of us will hopefully never know. I pray for a community and a country left reeling with devastation beyond belief that this should happen in a place where they should have been safe.
Christchurch, I pray for you.
Feature image by RubyAliceRose