Hate has no home here
Last Friday, mosques in Christchurch were filled with people who gathered for Friday prayers. They were fathers, mothers, grandparents, daughters and sons. Each and every one of them should have returned home safe to their families.
Instead, 50 people attended their last prayer. The first funerals are happening today, while dozens remain in hospital, many in a critical condition, and those who survived must live with the trauma of having witnessed this horrific act of terror.
This terrible crime on people of faith is an attack on all believers who seek to worship in safety and peace. It is also an assault on our shared humanity and our collective community is in mourning.
I’m sure many of you will be praying for those affected, particularly the victims and their families.
“We represent diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it.”
Since Friday, I’ve had Jacinda Ardern’s words in my head.
At the heart of what happened in Christchurch is fear, intolerance and bigotry. We cannot pretend that hate speech and racism, which is becoming more normalised in our politics and in our society, has nothing to do with this attack in New Zealand.
But hate is not who we are. There may be a lot of anger in this world, but there is a lot more love. To all those who feel helpless right now: you are not powerless.
Each of us can help stop the spread of bigotry and fear. We do that by standing together, acting with integrity and compassion, and using our voice in a way that reflects those values.
Survivors of Friday’s attack have come out with messages of love for their country and fellow Kiwis. In the midst of what they’re going through - the pain, loss and turmoil - their courage is incredibly inspiring.
I believe it is now our responsibility to follow their lead.
So this week, I want to invite you to be brave and be active. Ask yourself, “How can I help promote understanding and unity?”
We can each play a part in stopping things like this from happening again.
We need to lead by example in our own communities. We know that most anti-immigration and anti-refugee sentiment stems from a fear of ‘the other’. But by talking about the things and values we have in common - and not the things that make us different - we can help to shift people's negative attitudes.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has commissioned in-depth research which has really helped me have better discussions around these issues in a way that persuades, rather than polarises. You can read it here.
We also need our leaders to show moral courage, condemn hate speech and refuse to normalise racism. This coming election is an opportunity to elect leaders who do just that. I’ll be voting for candidates who stand for justice, equality and fairness.
It takes all of us to say hate has no home here. Let's say it together.
Act for Peace