Like you, I am heartbroken and incredibly confused by Friday’s events in our home, Christchurch. Confused at why our peaceful, tolerant nation and quiet little city has become the host of such an horrific terrorist attack, and incredibly angry that someone felt such entitlement to undertake such a heinous assault on our way of life. The perpetrators of this attack represent everything that we are not, they are not Christchurch. They are not New Zealand. They are not humanity.
Of course, first and foremeost we are grieving for the loss of our 50 friends, colleagues and neighbours; men, women and children who were senselessly murdered in Friday’s attack and the dozens more who have been injured, some critically. We stand shoulder to shoulder with their families and friends whose lives will never get back to what they were. The victims of this attack were a combination of people who were born in New Zealand, others who, like myself, chose to come here and make New Zealand their home attracted by the loving way of life New Zealand offers, and others came to New Zealand fleeing the turmoil of their birth country and settling in New Zealand as a refugee.
However they arrived in New Zealand, all of them are Kiwis. Each and every one of them is one of us. The diversity they bring enriches our city, and all of our lives. One of the beautiful things about New Zealand is we’re so small that instead of enclaves of groups of people, we integrate and cooperate as a small, but incredibly proud and respected nation. We are greater than the sum of all of our parts. Kindness, love, tolerance and compassion are our greatest exports to the world. We are a beacon of common sense and decency that other countries aspire towards. We may have some varying beliefs and practices amongst us, but we come together, we all live together, we all work together, we share the desire to live in a peaceful, accepting, harmonious society. Plains FM epitomises this. In my time at Plains, I have had the pleasure of working alongside over 100 broadcasting colleagues from all faiths, backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs, yet all united by the fact that Christchurch was our home, and we are proud to be here. We were able to share laughs together, make quality radio together and realise that our differences are cause for celebration and an opportunity to introduce each other to things that are important to us rather than something to feel threatened by.
This is why we feel this pain more deeply as a city and country. We all feel incredibly violated. Violated that someone dare to challenge our values of decency, kindness, openness, compassion and our desire to live and let live. We feel ashamed that this has happened here, upset that we are no longer that place where this could never happen. We are ashamed that our Muslim brothers and sisters who should have been safe here were not. We feel we have lost our innocence. We are struggling to come to terms and accept that these horrible things happened on our doorstep. Like anywhere that becomes victim to a terrorist attack, we don’t understand why we were targeted for such a callous and cowardly attack. We have so many unanswered questions.
Some of us, including myself are overseas at the present time, trying to make sense of what’s happened back in our home. In our safe space. Our oasis from all the craziness in the world. The place we thought was the last place on earth this could happen. Listening to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern give speeches, we and she never thought we’d hear any New Zealand politician have to give is surreal. It’s like a bad dream where any moment we’ll wake up from it as something this horrific couldn’t possibly be true. It’s surreal seeing images of the road you went to high school on making up the main bulletin on the BBC News in the UK, seeing Twitter flooded with hashtags related to your hometown for all the wrong reasons, walking to your London Underground station and finding a markedly increased police presence at the station and outside the local mosque in direct response to an event half a world away in your home. It all seems unreal, triggering and makes you feel sick to the stomach.
Indeed, the UK and others are as shocked that this has happened as we are. And they too have responded with our shared values of compassion, decency and love. I was speaking to a good friend of mine here who like myself was away from home when her hometown of Manchester was victim to a terrorist attack. She recalled feeling all the same emotions we’re going through – that this is not what happens there, that the people who live there totally reject and condemn it, that their innocence had been lost, and the deep sadness that this had happened to her home. Terrorism is not normal or acceptable anywhere in the world, and the likes of the UK and others in the international community really are united in grief with us, sending a strong message that this has no place in our societies.
We have been through a lot as a city, the Christchurch Earthquake brought us to our knees, like this event it was devastating, it was unprecedented, but unlike this event, we were able to accept what had happened as nobody was responsible for unleashing an earthquake upon our people. This event, it feels so very different. But let’s not allow our response to adversity to be different.
After the earthquakes, we all came together and demonstrated the values we hold so dear as a city and a country. We will do that again now. The antidote to hate is love, and let us do our best to not lose sight of the fact that there is far more love than there is hate in the world, just like rock beats scissors, love will always win over hate and is our best weapon to resist such affronts to what we hold dear. Everybody is hurting, check one another, embrace one another, cry together, remember that the reason we are hurting like this is because we reject it so strongly, because we are caring, compassionate, peaceful people and we are shocked. It is going to hurt for some time. It is going to hurt when you least expect it. That’s okay, have a korero with the people around you.
Although right now, so much has been taken from us, our compassion, diversity, love and tolerance will continue to shine through. No one can take that away from us.
The second verse of our national anthem, the values it upholds remain as true of New Zealand today as they ever have been: “Men of every creed and race, gather here before thy face, asking thee to bless this place, god defend our free land. From dissension, envy, hate, and corruption guard our state, make our country good and great, god defend New Zealand.” and with that in mind, the fourth verse “Let our love for thee increase, may thy blessings never cease, give us plenty, give us peace, god defend our free land. From dishonour and from shame, guard our country’s spotless name, crown her with immortal fame, god defend New Zealand.”
Although today, like you, I am hurting and at a loss to explain what’s happened in our home, I remain prouder than ever to be a New Zealander and of all the values our country stands for.
Arohanui, kia kaha Aotearoa.💔🖤