On Friday March 15th at 140pm and 155pm there were two consecutive terror attacks at mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand during Friday prayer time. The two attacks caused the death of 50 people and varying degrees of injuries to 50 others. The attacks were committed by a 28 year old white supremacist.
These attacks shocked the world and have had a deep impact on new Zealand society. On speaking to several Kiwis since the attacks, they all have described how the brutality of these attacks have had a major impact on the consciousness of New Zealanders for all time. New Zealanders considered their country to be a beautiful green peaceful oasis with a progressive and inclusive society. A country that welcomed visitors and immigrants alike, a society that had never encountered terror attacks or the ideology of political extremists.
Since the attacks, New Zealanders have had to deal with what one of my friends refers to as an existential or spiritual crisis, individually and collectively in families, communities and in society at large. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinta Ardern, has been a guiding light to the world in the way she has responded to these attacks. Her message ‘They Are Us’ is a message that every country in the world needs right now. We live in a world that needs political leaders like Jacinta Ardern. Too many of our leaders and politicians are subject to their own self interests, or are enslaved to their financial sponsors or powerful lobby groups like the ‘Gun lobby.’
I have been deeply touched by the reaction of everyday New Zealanders to these two acts of terror. People have taken to the streets marching for peace, holding vigils in support of their Muslim brothers and sisters and holding memorials for the victims of these terror attacks.
Ardern banned the sale of all military style semi-automatics and assault rifles just 6 days after the attacks. The New Zealand government, have since voted almost unanimously to change gun laws.
In the Quaker building in St Martins Lane in London, where I have my psychotherapy consulting room, there is a poster on the wall that reads ‘peace and social progress comes about as the result of the actions of everyday people.’ For me it totally resonates with the familiar quote of ‘Be The Change You Want To See In The World’ which is often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.
As Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists we must do all we can, individually and collectively to bring about change in our world. The world needs liberal religious voices like ours, to counteract the cold bitter winds of religious fundamentalism and right wing political extremism that has taken root in our towns, cities and countries. We should be marching for peace, we should be lobbying our local and national politicians for stricter laws on gun control, we should be saying to our Muslim sisters and brothers ‘you are us!’