Now, Otautahi, Christchurch, is a city of a million flowers. A million tears. Of grief
For my Muslim friends across the globe, and for mates of any or no faith, particularly those outside of Christchurch, and New Zealand -- last Friday’s event is a Muslim tragedy. It is also a tragedy for Christchurch, and for New Zealand.
For our first responders, for those who saw things that cannot be unseen, and for all of us. We are a tiny nation, a mere two degrees of separation. If you want to scale -- our city only has 375,000 people, our nation 4 million. It has been reported that this is the same as if America lost 2,600 people in a similar event in one day.
New Zealand has both a historical and current river of racism running through it. But what happened last Friday, on the edges of our four aves, the garden city’s boundaries, was unprecedented.
A few months ago, there was a feeling in Christchurch, that after many challenging years of earthquakes and fires, of rebuilding and politics, the city once more was beginning to sparkle -- we were even set to welcome refugees again.
Now, Otautahi, Christchurch, our beautiful city is a city of a million flowers. A million tears. Of grief.
There are many narratives to this event, here is just one.
All of the people. They arrive in suits and on skateboards, on bicycles and on fire trucks, they come from all faiths, and ages, and backgrounds to tell the Muslim community that they stand with them and that collectively, our city, our nation is sorry.
We offer you our flowers and our handwritten notes of love. Our posters declaring solidarity, our sketches of humanity. We give you our drawings by little children of other little children -- featuring headscarves and footballs and different skin tones -- all holding hands.
It is so many things. It is the blackboards outside cafes that simply say, “love wins,” the flags at half mast, the road cones blocking streets.
It is the young librarian with blue hair in a suburban library who I watched wrap her arms around an elderly distressed gentleman. And the immigration officer at the airport who greeted a Muslim man with Assalaamulaikum, and the smile on the man’s face as he replied.
It is our high school students singing at memorials. It is the candles lit, the vigils held, the money given.
But because we know that this is not enough, our laws are changing. And we will fight. We will fight for kindness, for inclusion. We will do better, we will be better.
For when the international media turns away, and the candles burn out, our Kiwi Muslim community needs to know that our kindness does not stop.
We must give each other a reason to still believe in good.
It sounds terribly naively, hopeful, childish even, but I have to believe that ordinary people will continue to choose acts of kindness and that we, you, me, us will stand up against wrong-doing.
That Otautahi will sparkle once more with beauty, that all people will feel included and safe because we make it that way for everyone.
And that whichever God you answer to, be it none, one, or many, may you find peace.
Aroha nui for our Muslim community, for Christchurch, for New Zealand.
Tasha Black writes from Christchurch, New Zealand.