Last week, New Zealand experienced a horrific terrorist attack targeting two mosques during Friday prayers. I, like many others, watched local news coverage of the massacre unfold on social media, distraught that others were watching these murders on a live stream. Emotions of anger, sadness, despair, and helplessness, all ran through my head. Sadly, however, the one feeling I never once experienced was surprise.
This display of hatred and senseless violence was rooted in Islamophobia and white supremacy, ideologies that have always existed but are now increasingly rampant, across the West. It is incredibly difficult to grapple with the level of coordination this attack required. From live streaming, to targeting multiple locations, to recognizing the importance of Friday prayers, to the blatant disregard for human life and the presence of children, all these factors exude a level of deep-seated evil far too exhaustive for me to ever comprehend.
This incident has reignited conversations around the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric that continues to inspire extremist violence. It is imperative that we uphold the right to migration and advocate for the rights of refugees in the face of this radicalism. These events will not deter us from welcoming those who seek safety at our borders and embracing those who are in need of a new home.
Close to Home
For Canadians, this attack feels all too familiar. It is yet another tragedy that has deeply affected Muslim communities here and around the world. Such events have many of us thinking, when will this finally stop? Will this spur a flurry of thoughts and prayers for the families affected, but, as usual, result is the same conclusion – inaction?
As a global community, we cannot tolerate inaction towards racism, Islamophobia and white supremacy. We must act, and we must do so now.
Waiting is not an option.
New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden has made headlines for showing compassion towards the victims, denouncing this hateful attack as terrorism, and identifying the need to fight racism in New Zealand and internationally. She has also proved that swift action through policy change is possible, by effectively banning the weapons used in the attack.
While Arden has received global recognition for her response, this praise sheds light on how little we expect from our political leaders. Arden’s actions simply represent common sense. Yet, instead they illustrate how little politicians across the board do when faced with similar circumstances. It is time we elevate the expectations we have for our leaders and refuse to settle for less than when they don’t live up to the appropriate standards.
Christians Must Step Up
What should remain of growing concern amid this tragedy is the link that such extremism has to Christianity. Far too often, Christians ignore the role that white supremacy has played in exploiting our faith for power. The attack in Christchurch is no exception.
There are those both high-level officials and the general public who attempt to justify such vile acts through the Gospel. We know that this is unacceptable. Christians must actively condemn and oppose such grotesque methods that distort the Word for use as a catalyst to advance racism.
More than anything, Christians need to rise up against Islamophobia. We need to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in support of their right to practice their religious tradition. This is where the command to love our neighbours as ourselves is most pertinent in practice. Christians exist in Canadian society as a group with immense privilege. This privilege must be used to protect the vulnerable around us.
No one should experience fear when walking into their place of worship. We must educate our communities who continue to perpetuate Islamophobia and work towards tangible change in the way Islam is presented to Christians.
Complacency is not an option. We have to acknowledge that rising up to defend people of other faiths is so clearly a matter of life and death.
We cannot afford to stay silent.