As most of you have seen we have had the most horrible event here in NZ last Friday. Such a senseless act of violence and terrorism has seen so many families and communities, not only here but around the world, left with loss, confusion, grief and fear.
It was in my hometown and while I no longer live there it made me feel so confused that anything like that could happen in Christchurch. I also felt incredibly powerless to help in a meaningful way. Then this came into my inbox and I thought it is actually so good I would share.
While it is obviously targeted to the Christchurch terror attack it has valuable message for being able to put your grief and confusion into action while creating a compassionate future. Already here in New Zealand good discussions and law changes are coming out of this horrendous attack. Sad though that we had to wait until so many innocent lives were taken. Maybe you can find something the email below to help you process your feelings and the world around you feel a little better.
‘ Like many New Zealanders, I have spent the weekend absolutely devastated.
Friday started off with so much hope. I joined our young people for their school strike against government and corporate inaction on climate breakdown. I watched as thousands of rangatahi took a collective stand for Papatūānuku in Wellington’s Civic Square. I cried happy tears.
Then a man with a murderous weapon, inflicted with the ideology of white supremacy, shot, hurt and killed Muslim men, women and children who had gathered to pray. I cried mournful, sorrow-filled tears and it’s been hard to stop ever since.
Below is a list of ways that may help you channel your anger and grief, as well as show solidarity with the Muslim community and the people of Ōtautahi/Christchurch.
Donate to the victims and families
The New Zealand Islamic Information Centre has set up a crowdfunding campaign on Launchgood (a crowdfunding platform for Muslim people) with all funds raised distributed to the victims and families affected by the Christchurch attack. All proceeds will go towards helping with their immediate, short-term needs.
The New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups has also set up a crowdfunding campaign on Givealittle. Victim Support says it will use all donations received to the page to provide support and resources for people affected by the Christchurch shootings and their family members. This one has already raised $3 million from everyday New Zealanders, which I think is a bright spot in an otherwise very dark time.
Attend a memorial vigil
In Māori culture, one of the most important aspects of losing a loved one is the tangihanga or tangi. The word means to weep, and to sing a dirge (a lament for the dead).
People travel from all around the country and world to come together at these funerals to share in the grief of loss and memories of those who pass. They are an important part of our culture. I see public vigils as serving the same purpose. Here are a few happening around the country over the next week:
- Invercargill – Sunday 17 March from 11am – 12pm.
- Wellington – Sunday 17 March from 6pm – 7pm at Basin Reserve.
- Christchurch – Thursday 21 March from 8.30pm – 9.30pm at Cathedral Square.
- Dunedin – Thursday 21 March in the Octagon.
- Auckland – Friday 22 March from 6pm – 7pm at Aotea Square.
- Nelson Race Unity Day – Sunday 24 March 24 in Victory Square.
Listen to the perspectives of Muslim people
Like with any religious, ethnic or age group, there are multiple perspectives and experiences within the Muslim community. Muslims are an ethnically diverse demographic hailing from 80 different countries around the world. They have been in Aotearoa since 1860.
Widening the articles we read, and the podcasts we listen to, to include a range of Muslim writers or producers is one way we can begin to understand these different perspectives. Here are a couple of pieces that have been written in the wake of the Christchurch attack.
- Christchurch mosque terror attacks a dark day of grief, shock and unspeakable heartbreak by Saziah Bashir, a freelance journalist who writes about social justice, race and gender.
- For us, life in New Zealand will never be the same by Sohail Din, a student at the University of Auckland, and member of the University of Auckland’s Muslim Students’ Association.
- The New Zealand mosques massacre and the denial of Muslim experience by Dr Asim Qureshi, research director at CAGE, a UK-based advocacy organisation working to empower Muslim communities impacted by the War on Terror.
Here is a podcast that came out in 2017, but is essential listening for anyone wanting to understand what life is like for a Muslim person living in New Zealand today.
- Public Enemy is an award-winning four-part podcast series from RNZ looking at the growing Muslim communities in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and how elections, counter-terrorism policies, war and xenophobia have changed lives.
This violent attack on Muslim people who were praying peacefully was based on the gunman’s idea that white people are superior to people of colour. This idea was fuelled by the renewed rise of neo-Nazis, xenophobia and far-right extremism all over the world.
For the last few years, powerful people with platforms (some politicians, some media commentators, almost all giant tech corporations) have stoked racial division to sell ads, generate headlines and create fear among us for cheap votes and clicks.
This racism and hate was also allowed to fester, because we have not been doing enough to condemn casual racism when we see it.
Report Islamophobic and xenophobic comments when you see them. Read this guide from Amnesty International on how to tell someone you love they are being racist.
This is a good book for people working through how they might be complicit in white supremacy.
You can also check out the NZ Human Rights Commission’s toolkit on their Give Nothing To Racism website.
Volunteer to teach former refugees and migrants English
English Language Partners New Zealand has a volunteer teaching programme providing free English lessons to former refugees and migrants. They will train you to provide those who need it with the language skills and confidence necessary to integrate and participate fully in Aotearoa.
Volunteer for The Red Cross
Contact your local Red Cross and see what they need. Volunteer tasks may include setting up a home for a refugee family, helping them with everyday admin such as enrolments, budgeting and shopping, and generally welcoming them into New Zealand.
Take action to end hate speech
For the last few months, our team has been researching the links between online hate, online misinformation and the rise in hate crimes.
One thing is abundantly clear: Extreme words lead to extreme actions. We need to do all we can to stop both.
Sign this petition that we’re delivering in a couple of weeks if you want our government to crackdown on online hate and misinformation:
I support an end to hate speech and misinformation online.
Take action to ban semi-automatic weapons
A member of the ActionStation community, Nik Green, is calling for a ban on all semi-automatic firearms. You can sign his petition today:
There are many other ways you can take action. Find your local Muslim community support group or mosque and reach out to ask how you can help.
Some people have been pledging to form human chains of protection around mosques so Muslims can worship and pray. Others have offered to accompany Muslims to wherever they need to go if they do not feel safe going out in public. We will be in touch again soon with other ways you can help as we find them.
Sending aroha (love) and kaha (strength) to all at this horrific time. Especially to our Muslim, migrant, and refugee communities,
Laura, Madeleine, Eliot, Leroy and Kassie, on behalf of the ActionStation team.
P.S. If you need someone to talk to about grief or trauma you may be experiencing, please call or text 1737. Both are free, confidential and available 24/7.
With special thanks to The Spinoff who originally published some of these ways you can help.’