New Zealand is in mourning.
This is a country that has become insulated to the incidents of mass murder that are commonplace in so many other parts of the world. For reasons of isolation, or politics, or simply its tolerance of other human beings, New Zealand is a sanctuary from hate.
And then hate appeared in the doorway of a house of worship with a semi-automatic weapon.
How does one reckon with such unexpected tragedy?
Prime Minister Jacinta Arden has been praised for her leadership in the aftermath of the shooting. She said that although many of the victims of the shooting are migrants, “New Zealand is their home. They are us.”
She said New Zealanders were not chosen for this act of terror because they condone racism but rather that they represent diversity, kindness, compassion, and a refuge for those who need it. “And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack,” she said.
For those of us who are visitors in this country, especially those of us who come from a nation where mass shootings have become frequent, there is a feeling of profound sadness. In those 15 minutes of sustained gunfire in Christchurch it was as if the innocence of an entire nation had been lost.
New Zealanders, however, will respond with typical strength. Christchurch was magnificently rebuilt following the devastating 2011 earthquake. It will recover from this tragedy, too. All of New Zealand will heal again.
But on this day, the sky is dark in Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019
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