On Friday afternoon, I was at work. Someone made the comment ‘gosh there are a lot of sirens out there’. Then someone said ‘there has been shootings at a mosque down in Christchurch’. It wasn’t until I got home that night and saw the news that my disbelief turned into tears. Into denial. Into helplessness. Shock. Shame. Hurt.
We were all in denial. We didn’t believe anything like this could happen in New Zealand.
On Friday night and every day since then, our Prime Minister Jacinda Arden does press conferences including answering lots of harrowing questions from journalists. She is visibly disturbed but is authentic, open and a shining example of what we call a wahine toa.
This Maōri term is often difficult to translate into English but my basic understanding is that of a strong woman in leadership with courage, dignity and courage. A wahine toa leads her people through turbulent times to safety. Jacinda Arden is our wahine toa.
This article and the incredible image of Jacinda at the mosque on my street on Saturday reflects my feeling towards this kind woman. Jacinda reflects who we are as a nation. The terrorist does not.
Our hearts cry for our Muslim brothers and sisters who have lost their family. In some instances, people have lost their spouse and children. Last night, I saw a beautiful interview with another wahine toa. She had lost her husband and son. She takes refuge in her faith and that they died in prayer, a highly dignified spiritual place. That is all she has to stay strong. She does not hate the terrorist. Rather, she expressed a sorrow for him in that he clearly has not had love or the peace that her faith gives her. We all have a lot to learn from our beautiful Muslim brothers and sisters in our New Zealand community. They are part of us.
Since Friday I have visited the mosque at the end of our street to pay my respects. The incredible smell of flowers is in the air. People have created beautiful art work, tributes, banners and messages of love. Every time I go there I cry. I cry for their loss, their vulnerability and their grief.
Across New Zealand, vigils are being held. Below are photos the vigil in Wellington on Sunday night. It was at the cricket grounds because the original venue quickly became too small.
Across New Zealand, volunteers are out in force as well as food donations, fundraiser events and donations. This morning, New Zealand has donated about NZ$5,000,000 to our Muslim brothers and sisters in Christchurch and growing. Might not seem like a lot of money for big countries like America. But for a little island nation of only 5 million people, we have never seen people open their hearts like this before. Ever.
Amongst this horrific tragedy, New Zealand is comming together. Our disgust as a nation for white supremacy and guns is at an all time high. Our Goverment is passing gun reform legislation at pace.
In closing, stand tall with your local communities. Love your community. Be there for them. Show them you care. If you cross paths with our Muslim brothers and sisters, offer to give them a hug. Offer to stand by them while they do their groceries. They are feeling vulnerable and it’s not okay. Some New Zealanders are even refusing to accept payment for food from our Muslim family at this time as a goodwill gesture. Gestures like this are what real New Zealand is all about.
I write this post with a heavy heart. We are in an unprecedented situation but we as Kiwis will stand strong together.
Kia Kaha New Zealand.
Nga mihi nui,
Ps below is a sign I passed on Saturday morning. This is who we are. A county unified.
I light a candle each night to respect those who lost their lives on Friday.