In the wake of the terror shootings in Christchurch, with the dead still awaiting burials as this editorial is being written, it is difficult to find words to do justice to the awful reality.
Lives have been savagely taken, families have lost loved ones, New Zealand has been shocked to the core.
How could this have happened here? That is a question just about everyone has asked.
Questions are also being asked about security watch lists; reminders are being given about warnings from the Islamic community about pockets of white supremacist extremism; promises are being made about gun law reform; discussions are being held about racist
undercurrents in this country.
These are all necessary. We want no repeat in our country of what took place at the two Christchurch mosques. Indeed, we don’t want this to happen anywhere, ever again.
As was remarked at the service at Sacred Heart church in Ponsonby on March 17, the aim of extremist violence is to divide communities. But in New Zealand, it has served rather to bring communities closer together.
The sight of Muslim people walking out of the Ponsonby church, in dignified grief, and lining the entrance to their mosque across the road to welcome Bishop Patrick Dunn and people of many faiths and none into their place of prayer was very moving.
As one media personality standing nearby was heard to remark “this is amazing”.
And it was amazing. One could call it a “graced moment”; an “amazing grace” moment.
Such “graced moments” have happened all over New Zealand — in places of worship, in public spaces, in streets outside mosques.
More graced moments will be needed as the days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years.
But one special moment of grace happened at the Ponsonby service; People were in tears singing the national anthem — God Defend New Zealand.
One verse had particular significance.
“Men of every creed and race, Gather here before Thy face, Asking Thee to bless this place, God defend our free land. From dissension, envy, hate, And corruption guard our state, Make our country good and great, God defend New Zealand.”
Men and women of many creeds and races had come together in the days after the shootings, in the face of hate, in a demonstration of just what makes this country
good and great.
Just a few things “good and great” that happened are worth listing. The response of police to apprehend the alleged shooter so quickly deserves praise. The ordinary folk who gave assistance to those fleeing the scene of terror was noteworthy. The fact that millions
of dollars was raised so quickly on a give-a-little page to benefit families of those killed showed how much we care. There was also the heroic contribution of ambulance workers.
Special mention too must go to the Prime Minister, who has been both the dignified face of the nation to the world at a time of national tragedy and a personal presence for a grieving, shocked community. Hat-tip and applause go to Jacinda Ardern.
As this newspaper goes to press, the Prime Minister has said that the Cabinet has discussed a national memorial service, to be held some time after the families of those killed have buried their loved ones. This is fitting. The nation needs some sort of official service to acknowledge those who have died, the loss experienced by their loved ones and just how hurt we have all been.
It cannot be just business as usual.
It would be fitting for prayer be part of the memorial — even if this country is increasingly secular. The killings happened in places of prayer. That is one of the most appalling aspects of the whole tragedy.
Speaking of prayer, many have prayed prayer of St Francis. Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy.
O divine master grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.