Columnists respond to terror attacks

Central Otago community leaders share their thoughts following the tragedy in Christchurch where 50 people were killed, last Friday.

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Shine a light on the darkness

Central Otago Mayor TIM CADOGAN.

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan shares his thoughts following the tragedy in Christchurch where 50 people were killed, last Friday.Tim Cadogan

It was a privilege, alongside my friend Wayne Perkins, and with the help of many others, to organise an event at Clyde on Sunday to give us all a place to come together and show our love, solidarity and support to our Muslim brothers and sisters, many of whom attended.

There was much korero afterwards.

During that time, I stood wordless as a lovely young Muslim woman from Malaysia sobbed as she spoke of her fear now of living in the country that has been her home for five years, the country that her beautiful child was born in, the country where she thought she was safe.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

Looking at her, her husband and that child; it was unimaginable that someone could hate so much as to shoot down families like this as they knelt in prayer.

What happened in Christchurch started small.

To paraphrase the wise words of others, no-one is born hating other people for their beliefs, their skin colour, the way they identify.

What the murderer did was the result of learnt behaviour, and the lessons I am sure would have started out as small, almost insignificant ones.

And, it is in the small that we must all fight back.

The small is laughing at the racist, homophobic or other divisive joke. I’ve done it. I am sure we all have. Not anymore. This is not us.

The small is shouting at the foreign driver for going too slow. I’ve done it. I am sure we all have. Not anymore. This is not us.

The small is tolerating bigots in our workplaces, our meetings places, our schools, our churches, our sports and social clubs, even in our homes and within our own families. I’ve done it. I am sure we all have. Not anymore. This is not us.

New Zealanders don’t like to cause offence, even in the face of offensive words. No more. Just say “This is not us” and walk away.

Let us all, from hereon in, make the ground they try to sow the seeds of hate in, hopelessly, irretrievably barren.

As Martin Luther King, a man who also died as the result of the actions of a bigot with a gun, famously said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”.

I wonder if the light he was talking about was shining a light, a loving and understanding but non-accepting light, on the divisive words of others.

Calling them out for what they are saying and letting them know it is not acceptable in Aotearoa to speak that way, before those words grow into actions that cannot be taken back.

Perhaps that is the best way we can honour our dead.

Reaction gives cause for hope

Reverend Andrew Howley. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

Parish Minister Alexandra, Clyde Lauder Union Parish REV ANDREW HOWLEY

As someone who grew up in Christchurch and lived through the earthquake sequence, the events of the March 15 have affected me greatly, as it has affected all our country, and many people around our world.

The shock, horror and bewilderment that people of any faith could be killed while in prayer at their place of worship is still sinking in.

The picture so many of us hold of our safe New Zealand at the end of world being a place of refuge and welcome to all, has come crashing down.

And, while the feelings of loss we feel are real, the real focus must be for those that have lost so much more: the Muslim community has suffered a terrible, heartbreaking loss, and they need our continued love and support.

Many of us here in Central Otago are in shock, and yet we have seen much to be hopeful about in the way that many people have moved from a place of merely tolerating other to embracing other.

It is in this way that we can have hope that we, as a people in Aotearoa, can move forward with stronger determination and hope for our future together.

Our national anthem sums it up well: “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.”

Our world is a far more tolerant one than that of the past.

Yet, there are many areas where we need to embrace others more fully and acknowledge the humanity of each other: people of different faiths or no faith, people of different genders, ethnicities, sexualities, ages.

There is much work for us to do to eliminate prejudice and persecution of others.

For what we say to each other when we perform tolerance is not a true determination of our embrace of one another’s humanity.

What we say when the other cannot hear us, may be the most damaging or constructive words we ever utter.

Strive for peace, tolerance and love

Queenstown Lakes District Council Mayor JIM BOULT

Queenstown Lakes District Council mayor Jim Boult. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

On Friday March 15, New Zealand lost fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.

We lost children. We are left mourning for those who died and we pray for those still fighting for their lives.

As a nation New Zealand is bewildered. We are in shock and we are in disbelief.

Our people have suffered an atrocity that we once considered to be foreign to these shores.

I have on countless occasions spoken of the distance our small country has from the troubles that beset the rest of the world.

Of how we are the safest country on the planet. That is now a thing of the past. A small slice of unspeakable evil has changed our world forever.

To borrow a line from President Roosevelt: ‘‘It isthe day that will live in infamy for our nation from this time on.’’

I predict there will be changes in the way we will live our lives in the future. Clearly, there will be a heightened need for security.

And in my view, gun laws need to change. Before Friday 15, I would have argued that our gun laws were suitable. No longer so.

It’s simply too easy for someone with sinister motivation to acquire a high-powered semi­automatic rifle — or worse, several.

Our Muslim whanau, our brothers and sisters have been brutally struck down, while simply attending their place of worship.

This cannot happen again.

While we cannot breathe life into those we have lost we can comfort the living, and work together to ensure there will never be a repeat of this tragedy.

I am sure I speak for all in our wider community when I say that resolute message to our Muslim community locally, nationally and globally, indeed to all peoples of differing creed, race and religion.

To the perpetrators of such unthinkable hatred, we say we will not tolerate you.

Our nation will build from this and we will not allow you to force us to live in fear. We must unite and we must strive for peace, tolerance and love.

I would also like to pay tribute to the men and women who protect and care for us.

There is no doubt that the brave actions of the NZ police and St John staff saved lives that day.

These people put their own safety at risk to ensure the safety of their fellow countrymen and women.

I also acknowledge the doctors and nurses who worked under extreme circumstances and continue to do so to save those who survived the ordeal.

If there is one thing to come out of this horror, it is that perhaps finally we will bring down any lasting divide between the many ethnicities and religions that make up our small country.

Please reach out to your friends, family and neighbours . . . this is a time to come together.