Shock and grief has swept over our community and country from last Fridays atrocity in Christchurch. The loss of 50 innocent lives including children as young as three is horrific enough. We must add to this 36 wounded and thousands left with lifelong emotional scars. The loss of life is compounded by this being a deliberate act of hatred, committed in a place of prayer and on people who came to our country for refuge.
We grieve with the families for their loved ones. We pray for the recovery of those in critical care. They are Kiwis and this is an attack on us. We stand side by side with our Nelson Muslim community and must ensure they feel safe, valued and loved.
We acknowledge the bravery and humanity of those confronting Fridays horror. Police, St John Ambulance staff and the dedicated doctors and nurses at Christchurch Hospital deserve our praise and thanks. There was also extraordinary acts of bravery by citizens that saved lives.
This was an attack on our Kiwi values. This racist monster is wanting to ferment hatred and violence. We must respond by reasserting louder than ever our values of freedom of religion, respect for all cultures and zero tolerance for violence.
We must also ensure we give him no opportunity to peddle his hate through his trial. He has silenced 50 innocent people. We make a mockery of our justice system if any opportunity is given to him to further spread his evil rantings.
This tragedy is also a brutal reminder that New Zealand’s geographical isolation is no protection from the international rise of extremism and terrorism. We also need to recognise that all cultures and religions can produce radicals capable of mass murder.
There are three areas where we need to ask some hard questions as we look to prevent such atrocities in future.
Firstly, our security services like the NZSIS and GCSB failed to detect the threat this man posed, despite him posting highly provocative material. I often hear from Nelsonians opposed to even having such agencies. They are needed and must be strengthened.
Secondly, it is unacceptable that this maniac was able to legally access such a stack of weaponry. We are going to need to review and tighten our gun laws.
Thirdly, we must find a way to curb the spread of hatred and extremism on the internet and social media while respecting freedom of expression.
On all three issues we need to avoid knee jerk reactions and give these difficult subjects time and wisdom.
This week we focus on respectfully remembering the victims and supporting their families. I have organised with our Muslim community this Friday at 12.30pm a community holding of hands around the new Nelson Mosque in Hardy St to symbolise our protection. We also have Race Unity Day at Victory Square on Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Together we Nelsonians need to make a strong stand for freedom, peace and tolerance.