Dark Clouds Loom Over New Zealand

As peaceful midday prayers at Al Noor Mosque echoed through its halls, a gunman charged through, killed several worshippers and fled the scene. By the time emergency services responded, the gunman drove to another mosque in the nearby suburb of Linwood and shot at another group of people inside. Deemed as a mass shooting in Christchurch, around 49 people have been reported dead so far with more than 40 others injured and 2 critical cases (including a 4-year child). Prime Minister Jacinda Arden called the horrifying attack as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and branded the shootings as a terrorist attack.

As of now the police have charged a 28-year old with murder and taken three others into custody. Before the shootings occurred, a man who identified himself as white allegedly posted a 74-page hate report and live streamed the killings on Facebook. The company has taken the post down, removed the account and is working with the authorities in the investigation.  In his post, the suspected gunman had claimed to represent European whites in a battle amongst immigrants after being riled up over his visit to Europe where he picked up on the document called “The Great Replacement”- which has become a rallying cry for European anti-immigration extremists. The suspect is due to appear in Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning local time, according to the police.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel spoke for the victims and expressed revulsion at such a sickening attack. “We have welcomed new people into our city. They are our friends, they are our neighbours. We want to come together to support them.” Security in New Zealand has been tightened and the threat level has been moved from “low” to “high.” The world has condemned this attack with millions of people showering their support on social media, by visiting mosques and standing for their Muslim brotherhood shoulder by shoulder. State leaders have been empathetic and offered their support. The White House released a statement speaking against the attacks, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.” French President Emmanuel Macron called it an “odious attack” and said it stood “against any form of extremism.” The United Nations urged the world to stand united against anti-Muslim hatred and to keep the people hurt “in mourning, prayer and solidarity.”

As the world remains divided over the issues of immigration, the New Zealand ambassador to the U.S., Rosemary Banks, in the wake of the attacks said, “We are a very diverse society, we have over 200 ethnicities, 160 languages…we have been very welcoming to outsiders, For these people who are victims in these mosques — they are refugees, they are people who are from our migrant communities who’ve chosen to live in New Zealand, thinking they would find a safe place where they could be free in their religion and their culture.”

Though some people proclaim this heinous attack as the ‘end of innocence’ for New Zealand since they are no longer far from the cries of terrorism, the Kiwis remain kind, open and understanding. Prime Minister Arden also reiterated the sentiment and believed, “We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not, and cannot, be shaken by this attack. You may have chosen us but we utterly reject and condemn you.”

Kavya Singh