On the 15th of March 2019, fifty lives were taken by a terrorist in two mosques across Christchurch, New Zealand.
AI was originally going to write about my experiences on how my life and mindset have changed entering University life as a Christian with outside life experiences, but the events that unfolded on Friday have filled me with a rage, sadness, and disbelief I can barely describe.
Many of those slain had immigrated to New Zealand for a better life, a way to escape war and other horrors of their homeland. As an immigrant myself, reading the terrorist’s manifesto was a chilling reminder of evil that permeates this world.
However, as I watched the nation unite in solidarity, my spirits soared. Most reactions to the massacre showexactly the kind of peace and unity we all need to strive for.
Then, I made a terrible mistake. I went on Twitter.
As I scrolled down, many messages were that of support—then I reached the ugly, shameful cesspool of account-holders who claimed to be Christians, and yet were posting the most unchristian messages.
Majority of them were disparaging the New Zealand government’s generosity towards survivors of the attack and the families of those murdered. They claimed that the charity and financial aid promised by the Prime Minister were ‘over-the-top’.
Their reasoning was that Muslims did not deserve it, despite of the tragedy that had unfolded. Many brought up the numerous acts of violence against Christians worldwide.
Beyond the differences
When the New Zealand Parliament invited various Faith leaders (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) to the first opening of Parliament since the terrorist attack, a remarkable scene unfolded.
For the first time I can remember, an Imam (Muslim faith leader) stood before Parliament and delivered a prayer condemning the attack and calling for peace and love.
We do not need to agree with the workings of another’s faith; I am a Christian, and I disagree with many teachings of the Muslim religion, and I am sure many disagree with ours. But I respect our differences. There comes a time when we must go beyond differences and look at the meaning others might get from an act like this.
What does it mean for an Imam to be invited by Parliament? It means that should a tragedy like this unfold upon another faith (and I pray nothing like this happens again in New Zealand) we can expect the same level of love and respect. Doing unto others what you want done to you. That includes us.
Some Christians tend to be defensive when confronted with tragedies like Christchurch. It is almost as if they are incapable of feeling sincere sympathy for others,irrespective of their background, their religion, their culture. This is the very opposite of Jesus’s teachings.
When you are approached with news that “Fifty people died in two mosques last Friday,” our responses must not be defensive, such as, “That’s sad. But what about Christiansbeing killed in the Middle East? What about the discrimination of Christians elsewhere?The danger they’re in?”
And sadly, based on the posts I have seen online, more people than I can swallow to accept believe and spread this kind of selfish sentiment.
Is this the Christian way to react? Wouldn’t it make more sense to respond with pain to match their own, to show that we feel and understand and sympathize? Instead of a defense, wouldn’t it make more sense to say,with absolute truth, “I know. I’m heartbroken. Is there anything we can do?”
The pain, suffering, and grief of one communitydoes notminimize another; in fact, it gives us an opportunity to extend our empathy, to connect and mourn as one people not a divided one, to show our love, our truest and deepest sympathies, our realest pain.
We can mourn the loss of Christian life without ignoring the massacres towards people of other faiths. There is no race to boast of tragedies. I will mourn for my Muslim neighbour the same way I will mourn for my Christian friends.
Because that is what I have learned from experiencing God’s love myself; it is free and freeing, it sees beyond all things until nothing much less matters, except recognising the equal worth of every life.
Today in the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University, there is a memorial wall set up I pray they never take down. On these black plywood walls, I saw,in colourful chalk, writingsin many different languagesandmessages from diverse groups and many faiths.
An out-pouring of love like, ‘I pray that God brings you peace and strength’—‘They are us’—‘You are welcome here’. And, larger than many other writings,
‘And the dust returns to the Earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.’(Ecclesiastes chapter 12, verse 7)
Megan Fermo is a writer who dreams of publishing her novel one day. She is learning and growing her faith every day.