The New Zealand massacre: seeking healing in national unity

There are doubtless those who will regard it as futile for New Zealand to seek national unity in the aftermath of the massacres at two mosques in Christchurch last week.  They’ll say the divisions run too deep to fill in, and too wide to bridge.

That, however, is not what the majority of New Zealanders appear to believe.  They’re making an all-out, passionate affair to use this tragedy as a fulcrum towards unity, rather than allowing it to tear their society apart.

Exactly a week after a gunman opened fire in the Al Noor Mosque, the ancient call to Friday prayers echoed out over police tape, and drifts of flowers, and over the thousands of New Zealanders gathered in central Christchurch’s Hagley Park to honour the 50 slain.

The haunting strains travelled across the nation, via simultaneous radio and television broadcasts.

“It used to be that you had to go into the mosque to hear the beauty of Islam. Now look at this,” said Omar Nabi, gesturing at the sea of people. His father Haji-Daoud Nabi was among the first worshippers killed on Friday, a week ago.

“Today my father is smiling at me, and laughing at him,” Omar said of the gunman.

Imam Gamal Fouda had a powerful message for the crowd: “We are broken-hearted but we are not broken. We are alive. We are together. We are determined to not let anyone divide us.”

At the heart of the national response has been the country’s young prime minister, 38-year old Jacinda Ardern, rising day after day to her terrible duty. If there had been quiet criticism in some circles that she was an inexperienced leader with as much stardust as substance, that has now been put to rest.

Ardern has been a commanding figure of poise, compassion and strength, a textbook example to other world leaders about how to respond in the face of mass casualty terrorist attacks.

One of Australia’s leading counter-terrorism experts, Jacinta Carroll from the ANU’s National Security College, wrote this week that Ardern had provided a “masterclass … from possibly the most unlikely place in the world.”

It was, Carroll said, “that rare combination of the right words and the right actions” from the leader of a small country which until now had enjoyed a reputation as a blessedly low-threat environment.

. . .

From [Dr Bryce] Edwards’ point of view, all of this suggests that beyond her genuine compassion Ardern has been acting with strategic pragmatism. Her goals, he believes, are manifold.

Firstly, she seeks to ensure that the division the gunman sought to sow between New Zealand Muslims and the greater community does not take hold.

Secondly, she wants to head off the potential for a culture war inside her country, with elements of the left seeking to identify racism in New Zealand society as the cause of the attack and sections of the right using it to impugn immigration or the Islamic community itself.

Thirdly Ardern – no doubt on the advice of police and intelligence agencies – has security implications in mind.

“Her security staff will be very concerned about the potential for retaliation and blowback,” Edwards told the Herald and The Age. By positioning New Zealand itself as the victim of the attack as well as its Muslim community, and by demonstrating unity with that community, Ardern is intent on reducing the potential for revenge attacks.

There’s more at the link.

An Australian cartoonist is drawing international praise for his adaptation of the New Zealand fern symbol into a message of mourning and healing.

A simple but powerful image by The Canberra Times cartoonist Pat Campbell in response to the Christchurch massacre has been shared around the world, cutting through the millions of words written about the tragedy.

Campbell has received messages from Malaysia to Canada to Egypt, as people reacted to the humanity of the cartoon, which uses the iconic New Zealand silver fern to represent 50 Muslims in various stages of prayer, representing the 50 victims of the Christchurch shootings last Friday, March 15.  [Click the image for a larger view.]

“I can’t tell you the full reach but it’s spread far and wide,” he said.

“Many Muslims have sent me messages thanking me for the image, which has been moving.  I’ve been approached by several parties wanting to use the image for vigils and fundraising for victims. It is a bittersweet thing to happen.”

. . .

Much of the reaction has focused on the simplicity of the image. That it can encapsulate the horror and the humanity of the shootings  without words. That it can also suggest hope, resilience, and that a gentle, loving spirit will endure against even the worst mankind can serve up.

Again, more at the link.

Contrast such approaches with those who’ve used the atrocity to stir up yet more anti-Muslim feeling, or (in essence) blame Muslims themselves for what was done to them.  Even some of the comments on this blog (for example, here) have been very negative, which saddens me greatly.  As far as any of us know, those who died in the two mosques in Christchurch were not terrorists, not criminals, not extremists . . . not even violent at all.  They were as much innocent victims as those murdered by ISIS fanatic terrorists in Iraq or Syria.  Yet, some of the comments about their deaths indirectly imply that they deserved to be murdered, because of their faith and because of the actions of other people of that faith, in other countries.

Frankly, I find that sickening.  When extremist Islamic terrorists decide (as, for example, in Paris in November 2015) that otherwise innocent Westerners deserve to die simply because of who and what they are, do we regard the terrorists as justified in killing them?  Or do we condemn their mindless massacres as the atrocities they are?  And, if the latter, why are some of us so hesitant, so reluctant, to condemn mindless massacres of Muslims in precisely and exactly the same terms?  Aren’t they the same crimes, the same evil – just with different victims?  (I’m not alone in asking those questions, either.)

New Zealand is trying to heal its internal wounds as best it can, under the most difficult of circumstances.  Some of the actions there, such as new restrictions on firearm ownership, I don’t support, because my life experience and views lead me in different directions:  yet, the majority of New Zealanders appear to support them.  If I lived there, I’d now be facing a dilemma.  Would I be prepared to give up some of my cherished rights in the cause of national unity, putting my country ahead of my personal views?  Or would I “go along to get along”, and make the sacrifice in the name of a collective rather than an individual cause?  I know many Second Amendment fundamentalists in the USA would reject that out of hand.  In New Zealand, which is a very different society with very different national and legal perspectives on such matters, it’s a different ball game.  Firearms owners there are expressing anger and disappointment at being singled out for attention, but they don’t have the constitutional, legal and other protections afforded to shooters in the USA.  I suspect they’re not going to be given an option.

I’m many thousands of miles away from New Zealand, living in a very different country, under a very different constitutional, political and legal system.  I’m not going to second-guess that country, or its leaders, or try to impose my own views and perspectives on what they’re doing.  They’re trying to heal from a devastating wound to their national psyche.  I wish them every success in doing so, and I hope they find a way forward that helps all New Zealanders to grow together, and resist extremism in any and every form.  God be with them.



  1. What we're seeing from here in Oz is that (apart from it wasn't a Muslim gunman for once) the Muslim religion is being elevated by leftie-rant to a position of being culturally untouchable. Anyone who dares question or dialogue on it gets called nasty names unless they fall in line with the PC group-think.

    What is the biggest thing to come out of this one-off and extremely abnormal event? A marked restriction to NZ's gun laws where previously there was none.

    For those with eyes and ears that are already open, it is worth noting that in 2008, PM Arden was elected President of the International Union of Socialist Youth. A touch over a decade later she is in the unique position of being able to take a large step in disarming the population.

  2. The nz massacre is being used to tar political enemies as racist, islamaphobist, White Supremacist, alt White etc. not to mention the censorship.

    Brings to mind Rahm Emmanuel’s comment – a crisis is a terrible thing to waste…

    Horrible politicization of this tragic event.

  3. Socialist (or is the term now Democratic Socialist?) uses tragedy to collectively punish citizens who did not commit a crime? I'm shocked! I recall the Patriot Act was passed here under emotial circumstances too. How many decades did our politicians spend promising to fix it?

  4. Irreverently awaiting, with casual indifference, the next episode in a series of "Human Hunters Turning Public/Commercial Places Into Shooting Galleries".
    Who'll be the next "batch of prey", who'll be the "hunter"
    …and what cliche ideological rhetoric will be the "reason(s)" for the slaughters/massacres?

    This shit is getting all out boring and redundant.
    Let's face facts: a lot of people favor division and bigotry. Nurtures their shameless ego trips and faux righteousness.

    And this world continues to fail at being accommodating of us all.

  5. The shooting illuminates the immorality of being un-armed. Those who are unable to resist fail in their duty to themselves and others.

  6. Meanwhile 11 Christians died while being persecuted today… 11 died yesterday and 11 will most likely die tomorrow… where is the outrage at that?

  7. Anyone else notice how the current NZ government is bemoaning the lack of gun registration? They were really itching to arrive on their doorsteps to grab every semiauto on the island. Any bets on whether they demand registration of everything else that is owned? I wonder what the compliance rate will be.

    So far, I'm thinking the Japanese have been the smartest nation in dealing with the Islam Problem.

  8. The end result of all this breast-beating? The opposite of what they hope for. It ends up making them look weak, and a better target for attack. The fact the .gov there is going to disarm their citizens? Icing on the cake, as far as everyone else is concerned. Will more incidents occur? Of course!

  9. I see 'Glen Filthie' decided to walk back his remarks. Not surprised.

    There has been some troubling behavior in particular on the part of NZ's government that makes me wonder what side they're on. The Al-Noor mosque, also, gained some notoriety a while back because two NZ boys converted, started going there… and then went overseas to play 'shoot the infidel' in Yemen, I believe. Couple that with NZ's ham-handed gun control attempts and their demands for everyone to take the shooter's footage and manifesto off the Internet (lolwat) and it just looks strange.

    However, I can honor Mr. Grant's hope for grace and peace.

    If nothing else, I can do it by keeping a civil tongue in my maw.

  10. I just hope the MAJORITY of Kiwi gun owners lost their weapons in a canoe accident, or sumthin'. We know the cost of APPEASEMENT, all too well….

  11. The fact that there is so little resistance by NZ gun owners helps us understand that their perspective on firearms is different than ours. Theirs was never an enshrined right; guns are useful tools in a rural environment, not symbols of freedom from tyranny. Many will turn in their semiautos, and they'll retain (for now, anyway) their shotguns and bolt-actions.

    I can bemoan the loss of their freedoms, but frankly I'm too busy trying to maintain my own here in America to put much effort into it. I am also grateful to live in a country with such enshrined rights, with a government designed to make it next to impossible to sign away such rights with the stroke of one impassioned, well-meaning pen.

  12. Respectfully, I could not disagree more. New Zealand's left-wing government is utilizing this tragedy to crack down on gun ownership and free speech (witness the ludicrous banning of the killer's manifesto by the country's Chief Censor – his actual title) and to double down on support for immigration, diversity, and globalism, while characterizing opponents of Muslim immigration as evil.

    I am not a citizen of New Zealand so I cannot prescribe policies for that country, but this strikes me as a disastrously wrong-headed response, and a sign of terminal national decline. What use is national unity when that unity is achieved by rallying around stupid and self-destructive ideas?

    And I confess to being puzzled by the idea of giving up one's cherished rights in the cause of national unity. Why would anyone ever consent to this? Rights are utterly meaningless if they can be thrown away so easily to satisfy the shifting whims of the majority during a crisis.

  13. Times like this is exactly why I am glad I can separate the art from the artist. Peter, I cannot agree with you when it comes to Muslims. In the future, New Zealand and other Western countries will have unity but it will be under the boot of Islam. For anyone who is interested in understanding the scope of this evil go to, Islam is a totalitarian, barbaric ideology, under the guise of a religion. There is no such thing as moderates Muslims, This is the horror our children will have to face as it takes root in Western Countries because of foolish tolerance.

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