They are us

Published in Insights Extra, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 18 March 2019

Even three days after the Christchurch massacre, we are still looking for words to describe how we feel. Shock, disbelief and anger are on our minds. In our hearts, there is only bottomless sadness.

We are mourning the loss of 50 human beings – men, women and even children. They lived among us as part of our community.

In just three words, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern beautifully captured why this xenophobic massacre was an attack on all New Zealand: “They are us.”

21st century New Zealand is a place of diversity. We come from many backgrounds; we practice different faiths or none; we hold various views and philosophies.

But as people living on these islands, we are all human and we are all calling New Zealand our home. It is our common humanity that binds us. This makes Friday’s events so hard to bear because they were deeply inhumane acts.

“Whosoever killed a human being, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind,” as the Quran puts it. They are us.

Or as we sing in our national anthem: “God of Nations at Thy feet, In the bonds of love we meet. … Men of every creed and race, Gather here before Thy face.” They are us.

Anti-migrant violence has no place anywhere. It certainly has no place in New Zealand. From daily experience we know what contributions migrants make to our country.

We hope that over this difficult time, New Zealand will come together. To mourn the dead. To uphold our values. To defend our common humanity.

They are us, and we are them.