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Real NZ seen in help, grief, vigils

Opinion Piece

New Zealand begins the week in a deeply sombre mood as the dreadful events in Christchurch and their impacts really begin to sink in, after the initial shock and horror has passed.

Statements that the country has lost its innocence and perhaps naivety reflect a widely held opinion. It is as if one our greatest assets, being a safe place, has been snatched away from us.

That is even crueller for many of the victims who came here from war-torn countries seeking a safe new home. The New Zealand Muslim community, despite enduring some ignorance and bigotry, also had grounds to believe they were safe here.

The tragedy has put New Zealand into the eyes of the world media and the Muslim world is understandably grieving and angry, although it is evident that people realise the blame cannot be directed at this country.

In this respect great credit is due to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern whose response has shown immense empathy and compassion, and attracted worldwide admiration.

The real New Zealand can be seen in the way bystanders rushed to help shooting victims, sometimes at physical risk to themselves.

It is also shown in the vigils that have been held right throughout the country, such as hundreds at services here and thousands packing the Basin reserve.

It could be seen in flags flying at half-mast including the one in front of the C Company Maori Battalion memorial house in Stout Street, a haka outside the Al Noor Mosque and the mountains of flowers piled in the streets of Christchurch.

One of the foremost things on people’s minds as the week starts is what can they do for the victims’ families and the Muslim community as a whole.

Already there have been generous financial contributions reaching more than $6 million by last night.

In the long term, however, the best thing people can do is to show the Muslim community they are fellow New Zealanders and that they are welcome here. If the maniac who slaughtered so many in his blind hatred has unwittingly contributed to this, he and his repulsive philosophy have been completely defeated.