Arohanui Christchurch and our Moslem community

Yesterday my daughter and I, like hundreds of New Zealanders, went to  a local mosque to add our flowers to the many, many that were already decking the footpath in a burst of colour and fellowship. The Imam and other elders circulated quietly, talking to people who stood quietly, pondering the terrible  events of Christchurch.

Our school values resonate; we are kind; we are welcoming. I’ve said over the years that as a school we have an opportunity to create a place where we welcome diversity and see others’ differences as things to celebrate and learn from. In Christchurch on Friday, actions born of fear of difference, intolerance and a failure to understand our common values as a peaceful nation actively engaged in sharing our lives and faiths was challenged in the most horrendous of ways.   

It’s simplistic to say that the deaths on Friday affected our Moslem students and their families.Friday attacked us all.  It’s an appalling thing to consider that the gunman could equally have launched his attacks here in Wellington or Lower Hutt and seen our community members targeted for their faith. His was an attack  on what is different from himself, an act where intolerance has shifted through fear and become something twisted and hateful.

As we reflect on what has occurred and as we work out what we need to do to support our Moslem community within the school, we can also see what that is. It’s love; aroha. It’s being kind and welcoming. It’s the thing I most enjoy about our school: looking out over the back field and seeing students arm in arm, walking, playing chatting and enjoying their friendships and where the groups visibly range across ethnicities and backgrounds. I often think we’re an island of hope in a world that too easily surrenders to what is bleak within humanity, and that the daily friendships here celebrate that part of us which has much, much more power.

As we work to reassure not just our Moslem community but our entire community that we are safe, that we care, that we love and support, we are building that part of ourselves that ennobles humankind and sets us on paths that explore the best in us.In doing so, we utterly reject the philosophy and beliefs that on Friday sought to make us less that that. We affirm by our thoughts, speech and actions that we are active citizens of a country whose ideals celebrate the connections across our families, traditions and faiths. We are kind; we are welcoming, and even when we are tested by events such as Friday’s, we remain who we are, determined to live with aroha, and not with hatred.     

Ross Sinclair