One of us
April is a significant month in many ways. While Christians around the world celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, the son of God, on Easter Sunday and honored his sacrifices, the month is also marked by other significant reminders of human sacrifice. Notably, Anzac Day on April 25 is a day when Australians and New Zealanders commemorate all their brothers and sisters who have served and died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
When reflecting on these celebrations it struck me that while we remember death and sacrifice, both Anzac Day and Easter also focused on the celebration of life, courage and the legacy left by human life.
Tragically this year’s Easter celebrations were deeply marred by the barbaric terrorism attacks in Sri Lanka which killed almost 300 innocent men, women and precious children. Just like the Christchurch attacks a few weeks earlier, these souls were massacred whilst peacefully praying and practicing their religion at a holy time in their places of worship. These were places of sanctity where they should have been safe.
Like most of you I have been shocked, enraged, grieved and despaired by these and other acts of terrorism that target groups of people and communities around the world.
As I reflect on these senseless attacks I keep coming back to one question we must all ask ourselves:
HOW DO WE FIND WAYS FORWARD TO PREVENT EXTREMIST IDEOLOGIES FROM PITTING US AGAINST EACH OTHER?
My view is that the answer to this question lies with every one of us. It is in the language we use, how we treat others, the perceptions we have of ourselves and our community, what we teach our children, the values we hold dear and the priorities we give to kindness, inclusivity, peace and acceptance. It is calling out and challenging racist, prejudice, bigoted views in the workplace, in our homes and in public places that serve to perpetuate the ‘othering’ that has been the subject of so much divisiveness and fear mongering in the narrative of many of our leaders and politicians. It is the willingness to sit down and have meaningful conversations with people that don’t look like or live like us in an effort to understand them better and see similarities between us all, as well as celebrate the differences that make up the rich tapestry of our modern societies. It is the commitment we make to find common ground with all our brothers and sisters, and using that as the cement with which to unite us.
It is, as Prime Minister Adern said in one of her speeches following the Christchurch attacks, seeing all the victims of hate and terror as one of us. It is deciding to focus on them and celebrating their life and telling their stories. It is doing everything we can to comfort and bring in closer their communities and it is refusing to give attention and a name to those that spread fear, terror and bloodshed.
Those that normalise, give permission to and perpetuate extremist, radical, hateful ideologies do so not in our name. We must make that clear in the way we live, lead and teach those around us. Those that are the victim of that hatred must be protected, engaged with and understood better.
That is how we can all play a role in making our communities and our world a safer and more tolerant place to live. It starts with our daily acts and thoughts and it is the undeniable and unstoppable ripple effect of ordinary people like us that will be the change we so desperate need in our world. I passionately believe this. We must all believe this.
To the victims and loved ones of Christchurch and Sri Lanka – we mourn with you and we stand by you.