The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Friday 13 March 2020

Give Nothing To Hate

A year ago (on 15 March 2019) a gunman walked into two mosques in Christchurch and shot and killed a total of 51 people.  In a speech to Parliament a few days later, Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister of Aotearoa - New Zealand) said of the shooter, “we will give him nothing, not even his name.” 

A campaign, #givenothingtohate, was launched by two Christchurch residents following the shootings.  The campaign, and Jacinda Ardern’s words, draws on the idea that the simplest way to overcome hate speech is to not acknowledge (and not name) such “speakers” and to not promote their manifestos or creeds.  The heart is coloured green in solidarity with Muslim people.

A few days after the shooting, I wrote of my struggle with the grief I felt.  I now offer that more publicly and dedicate it to the 51 people killed (murdered) on 15 March 2019.  I titled it:

How To Grieve?

Is it possible to grieve for the loss of a person one has never known? I don’t know; I have never experienced such grief. If I do not know how to grieve for the death of ONE person I do not know, then how can it be possible to grieve for the death of 51 people I do not know?

I began to find the answer to that heart-rending question on the afternoon of Friday 15 March 2019.

I have never met any of those 51 people killed at the two Christchurch mosques, or any of their families. I had run past Al-Noor mosque two or three times a week for nearly thirty years, after it was built in 1985. Its gleaming white exterior was a landmark on the 8km lap around Hagley Park. The mosque sat there, peaceful, serene, it belonged. It belonged in Christchurch just as easily as it would have in Jakarta or Islamabad.

But, it didn’t. Not in the minds of some. Pigs heads and other atrocities were dumped upon its doorway, and I made no complaint. “It’s nothing to do with me,” I justified and excused. So, how could it be that the killing of 51 people, who I did not know, in that mosque that day brought me to tears? How could my heart be filled with compassion? How could I be numbed? How?

Perhaps it was the location. Christchurch, my home for 30 years of my life, my second hometown.

Perhaps it was the scale of the terror. On a per capita basis, if the same proportion were killed in Australia then more than 260 people would have been killed that day. If in the US, then over 3,000 would have died – more than the number killed in 9/11. Maybe the sheer size elicited my tears?

Yes, it was those two factors. But more. A fundamental factor was empathy. My first facebook post that afternoon referred to those killed, and their families and friends, as being “our brothers and sisters.” Did I really feel that? Or, was my response expected of me, not really felt. And that sentence more accurately reflected my feelings: doubt, confusion, fear, a feeling of unreality. What is real? 
And in that feeling I noticed one of the classic elements of grief: denial.

Seven years before that afternoon I left Christchurch following the devastating earthquake that killed 185 people – three of them friends of mine. Then, I was able to mourn the three people I knew. One of them, Brian, I had run many times around Hagley Park with, and past that mosque. I was able to meet with others who knew those three people; we were able to share stories, we were able to weep and to laugh together. Eventually, we were able to let go.

Since 15 March I have been unable to do any of those things – I did not know them, and do not know anyone who did. Yet the grieving, the sadness, is just as profound.

Yet, not all my tears are spurred by grief and sadness.

Tears flowed when I heard the husband of one of those killed speak from his wheelchair and say, “I forgive him.”

Tears flowed when I watched Jacinda Ardern hug a Muslim woman whilst wearing a hijab.

Tears flowed when I watched dozens of Maori, and others, performing haka, including one group of very capable Muslim kids.

Tears flowed when I heard a girl at a Christchurch high school ask Jacinda Ardern, “How are you?”

Tears flowed when I heard Jacinda reply, “Thank you, I am very sad.”

Tears flowed when I saw the Sydney Opera House lit up with a silver fern.

Tears flowed when I saw the front page of the Christchurch Press, with the simple words “Salam, peace” written in Arabic. Beneath that the names of those killed.

Tears flowed as I read dozens and dozens of posts on facebook from friends and family.

These and many more tears were not of grief. These were tears of joy, connection, love, pride, recognition, empathy, togetherness – tatou, tatou.

These emotions of mine, and similar emotions I saw and heard expressed by others, all speak to me of a common humanity, a shared experience of living upon a planet of wonder and mystery, of diversity and commonality, of discord and harmony. Those tears I shed, those tears I saw in the eyes of thousands, told me we all experience the paradoxes of being human.

So, I come back to my question. How can I grieve for the deaths of 51 people I have never met? By tapping into those paradoxes, by recognising our common humanity, by feeling empathy. I could term it grempathy – the grief one feels when empathising with the loss experienced by someone else.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.
As-salamu Alaykum.

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