What next for NZ?
Updated: Mar 20, 2019
This morning when I walked into church and sat down I did something that I have never done before. I made a plan in my head as to what I would do if a terrorist came in and started shooting. Would I run? Would I stay and try to help others to escape? Would I hide under the seat and pray I wouldn’t be noticed? And I felt numb that for the first time in my life I did not feel safe in a place of worship in New Zealand.
This morning we welcomed into our church, people of the Muslim faith who had come to our service because their place of worship is not safe. We prayed for our nation. We sang our beautiful national anthem and I cried.
I cried because the events of Friday proved once and for all that being a small country at the end of the earth, miles from anywhere was not enough to exempt us from the terrorism that happen in other places in the world. The only other time I have felt like this was the night our family was told my brother had leukemia. Up until that point I genuinely believed that cancer happened to other families it didn’t happen to ours. But it did. And the events of Friday proved that terrorism doesn't just happen in far away places, but that it could and did happen in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Right now New Zealand has some big decisions to make. Top of the list and the easiest to decide will be increased vigilance around the monitoring of potential terrorist activities and much stricter gun laws. But we also have other decisions to make and these ones are not as clear cut, but in the long run will, I believe, prove to be equally as important for the quality of life we experience in New Zealand.
I’ve visited schools in low socioeconomic areas of Detroit. They had security guards at the front doors, and you had to walk through metal detectors and have your bags x-rayed before you could enter. This was what students experienced every time they entered their place of learning. I’ve visited a school in Indonesia where parents had to have their school ID on them, and security guards checked under their cars with mirrors, before they could enter a car park to pick up their child. I’ve spent time in South Africa, staying in houses that had high spiky fences and metal bars on every windows with security guards posted on the street.
We need to decide collectively what level of security we want to live with in our homes and in places like schools and shopping malls. The reason we need to do this collectively is that as soon as one organisation puts in increased security measures it greatly decreases its chance of being a target while at the same time increases the risk for others - thus beginning an ever increasing spiral of preventive measures that will make the security industry rich and our lives less so.
When I was in South Africa and looking out the barred windows of the rooms in which I slept, I couldn’t help wondering that if the country had spent as much time and energy on building equity for its people, as it did on fortifying the homes of the wealthy, might this have made a difference for the nation as a whole?
My hope is that moving forward from Friday, we will invest in our future safety by becoming a nation of people who stand against evil, who embrace difference, and who find inequality and poverty unacceptable and work tirelessly towards its elimination. We will only achieve this if we have a nation of people who truly understand about rights and responsibilities and that in a civilised society you cannot do whatever you please. This understanding comes through education, ideally from the home, but also from our early learning centres, and schools.
A silver lining from Friday is that I believe that future New Zealand will be more inclusive and accepting of our new citizens, and that we will become far more tolerant of people different to ourselves.
For that small mercy I am indeed grateful. You do not overcome evil with greater evil; you overcome evil with love, tolerance and acceptance.