Never let evil defeat you but defeat evil with good – Romans 12:21 TPT
On Friday 15 March 2019 a gunman walked into two Christchurch mosques and killed 50 people.
It was a shocking, brutal assault, the kind we as New Zealanders had told ourselves happened only in other countries. But the terror of a hate-filled mass murder had visited our nation now too. This was the end of our nation’s innocence – a despicable act of cowardice took it away.
Many hearts have been broken and the world weeps at the huge void that has been left.
Words fail us at such times.
That this kind of violence could happen in a peaceful country like New Zealand exposes the great danger all nations face when extremists take advantage of platforms like social media to propagate their twisted, hate-filled philosophies and call for violence to be unleashed on innocent people like those in Christchurch on Friday.
For me, these things always felt foreign. But now, Christchurch, a city of openness, a city of understanding, a city so friendly that its nickname is the garden city (a city that unfortunately has had its fair share of natural horror) became something else, it became another on that abhorrent list of the new terrorist handbook.
How often have I found that I have so little to offer those in need.
For that, I say that I am sorry.
I am just heartbroken for the families—innocent men, women, and children—many of whom fled to New Zealand for refuge, a professing Christian country expressed in the words of our national anthem and injunctions about caring for strangers and the vulnerable.
Bloodshed, terrorism and fear were what some of the victims had left behind, fleeing countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. Others were born here, used to relative quiet and peace. But in the land of emerald green rugby fields, hatred found them all anyway.
Very quickly Christchurch has changed. Christchurch is no longer a city of migrants, it is a city of brothers, sisters, a city of togetherness that I doubt terrorists will ever comprehend. We lost our innocence but may have gained a determination for a more inclusive community for people of all nations and faith.
It is appalling beyond words what has happened, and my prayers, thoughts and practical generosity extend to all Muslim families suffering so terribly at this time. I pray for the Police, ambulance staff and hospital staff working so hard to bring some comfort.
The main thought that have been running through my mind since the shootings is that the church has a crucial responsibility to play in this tragedy.
Scripture says, “Never let evil defeat you but defeat evil with good – Romans 12:21 TPT.
Admittedly, the shooters did not claim a Christian worldview or motivation, but rather seem to have been motivated by racism, white supremacy, and xenophobia. However, Christians must search their souls for any contribution they might have made to the current shape of our attitude towards Islam and Muslims.
We must inaugurate a new trend of thinking and writing that sees Muslims as neighbours, and Islam, its prophet, and its holy book as grounds for dialogue and peace-building in celebration of what unites us and serves as bridges between us. It is on common ground that we will be able to work towards multifaith communities built on coexistence in search for the common good. Much work has already happened within the multifaith community in New Zealand. This despicable act opens the door to continue with the dialogue.
It is in the context of such communities that we will be able to proclaim the uniqueness of Jesus and his love that attracts us to God and invites others into His Kingdom.
While we lament the terrorist attacks as yet another tragic reminder that the world is not as it should be, we must remember the words of 1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
There is no better response to violence rooted in hatred and fear than a persistent commitment to love God and love all neighbours.
We will all never be the same again. We will never again complain about excessive security at rugby games or concerts. We can never again take for granted the freedoms that we have come to cherish being in this small pocket of the world, never again treat with fearless disdain the idiotic comments of overseas extremists.
Albert Einstein put it this way, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
May our words and actions promote the peace of God throughout New Zealand and cast out all forms of hatred and fear.