They Are Us

It has been too long since I last updated. I’ve had my 40th birthday, I’ve started studying at UC and then we have the horrific events of the 15th of March.

The attacks on two mosques in the city that I’ve called home for nearly nine years (nine years tomorrow since I moved to Christchurch but 4 years and 8 months of that was spent in a satellite city) was a shock, not only to those of us in Christchurch, but New Zealand. I’m following in my Prime Minister’s footsteps in that I will never speak the name of the attacker.

It happened when I was at university. My last lecture of the day was at 1pm and even though I was finding myself getting really tired during it, I found myself debating whether to stay at uni afterwards to get more books out for upcoming assignments. But the need for sleep won out and I went home to sleep. I only slept for an hour.

When I woke up, I checked Facebook on my phone and this was when I learned of the mosque attacks. This was also when I learned that if I had stayed at university, I would’ve been caught up in a lockdown that applied to all malls and schools. As soon as I saw the various posts, I started crying and this was when Freddie, my cat, started comforting me in one way she knows how – by licking my hand for the best part of five minutes.

I’ve since found out that one of my colleagues at work lost his wife in the attack and that another, unfortunately, lost his life. I have moments when I can be going about my regular routine (depending on what day of the week it is) then I’ll start crying for no reason at all. My sleeping patterns, which are generally crap at the best of times, have been worse. Helicopters have been flying over the city during the night.

But through all of this, a beacon of light has been Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister. The following is from a speech she presented at Parliament, mere hours after the attack.

We, New Zealand, were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we’re an enclave for extremism; we were chosen for the very fact that we are none of those things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not, and cannot be shaken by this attack. We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities. 160 languages, and amongst that diversity we share common values and the one that we place the currency on, right now, tonight, is our compassion and our support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy. And secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this.

You may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you.

At my university on the Monday after the attack, we held a vigil. It started with the Islam Call to Prayer, which I had never heard until then. The university chaplain, the university Vice Chancellor, the Student Association President and members of the Muslim community all spoke and whenever a Muslim representative finished speaking, they got a standing ovation. The national anthem was performed also and what got me was that the rarely performed second verse was sung as well but given the circumstances, it seemed appropriate. Halal food was served afterwards and I ended up with a really yummy pattie of some description – I have no idea what was in it but it was really nice!

Men of every creed and race
Gather here before Thy face
Asking Thee to bless this place
God defend our free land
From dissension, envy, hate
And corruption guard our state
Make our country good and great
God defend New Zealand

Two minutes of silence was held at 1:32pm on this past Friday and radio as well as tv stations broadcast the call to prayer beforehand. I know that one person in particular wasn’t pleased about this at all because he said broadcasting the call to prayer was offensive to all Christians in NZ. Some of them would’ve been offended but not all of them.

Most of my assignments due between now and the end of term have been extended by a week. When it comes to some assessments (I had a speaking assessment for my JAPA125 class on Thursday), everyone in the room has been given a pass.

Egg Boy has been seen as a hero in these parts. He’s donating the money raised for him through GoFundMe to the fund set up for the victims and their families.

I saw something on Facebook which kinda explains the relationship between NZ and Australia. I can’t remember it word for word but it was something along the lines of “NZ is the annoying little cousin but when something happens to that cousin, you step up for them.” If I can find the actual quote, I’ll post it here but until then, that will suffice.

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