In the wake of tragedy, it takes strength to hold a community together, and New Zealand’s president Jacinda Ardern has done just that. The recent attack on two Mosques in Christchurch left 50 people dead, with the ages of the victims ranging from 2 to 71 years and a majority of them being migrants. The days following the attack have brought a lot of problems within society to light, but have also forced the government to revisit their firearm laws; Ardern revealed that the full details surrounding the changes will be announced within ten days.
Political leaders from around the globe could be taking a page out of Arderns book; within days of the attack, she has moved to seek policy change and has reached out to a broken community to help them begin to heal. Pictures of Ardern have shown her wearing a hijab to show solidarity with the Muslim population at this very difficult time. While Ardern has been heavily criticised during her 18 months in office, mostly for her openness and economic policy, her leadership throughout the aftermath of this tragedy has been exceptional. In one of the first press conferences following the shooting, she addressed the public, saying, “They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.” She stressed that, “They are us”.
This message of strength and unity is one that we could all learn from. What Ardern is doing is working towards changing the “Us vs Them” narrative, which is exactly what attacks like this aim to perpetuate further. Every New Zealander is allowed to mourn. Every New Zealander has been hurt. The Muslim community doesn’t stand alone, they are part of the wider community; this wasn’t just an attack on Muslims, this was an attack on the community of Christchurch. This was an attack against humanity.
50 people went to their local Mosques to peacefully pray, and had their lives taken for it. If we are ever going to challenge the belief that Muslims are inherently violent or that migrants are outsiders looking to invade, it simply isn’t enough to feel angry for the Muslim community or to feel empathy; we must realise that they are our community. Faith, race and ethnicity should never become more important than our humanity.
by Zoya Chishti