A week marked by tragedy and infamy

It has been an awfully sad week. There is no denying the fact. 

We have seen so much misery, suffering and devastation near and far, it’s impossible to ignore them even from the remote shores of this place we call home in the middle of the vast Pacific ocean.

The wonders of the internet and advances in technology has made it so much easier for us to follow what is happening anywhere in the world so that whether it’s a plane crash killing all people on board in Ethiopia or the shocking news of the mosque shootings in Christchurch New Zealand, it was almost as if these tragedies were unfolding right before us.  

In other words, we can no longer afford to be isolated and shielded from what is happening out there in the world. Indeed, we might be isolated in the sense that we exist on a group of islands in the middle of the vast ocean but technology has made us part of the global village, which means we cannot escape the reality of the events unfolding before us. 

And if we are honest, the events of the past week are sad, extremely tragic. Some of us would have preferred to remain isolated and uninformed in that sense, to avoid the sheer sadness and sense of loss we have become so enveloped in during the past few days. Many of us have been so overcome with sadness and utter hopelessness.

But aircrafts crash all the time, some people might say. Well that’s true but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch and see people suffer. In the case of the Ethiopian Airline plane, not one person survived. What’s worse is that in the aftermath, no bodies have been found which means relatives and loved ones will have to live with the fact there would be no closure. What do you do? 

But that was in Ethiopia, quite a fair distance from Samoa. 

Imagine then how much worse we felt when the events in Christchurch New Zealand, just over three hours away by plane, started unfolding on Friday night.  As this piece was being compiled last night, it had been confirmed that 49 people were killed and many more injured in what has been described as one of New Zealand’s “darkest days.”

The description from New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has also called the tragedy a “terrorist attack,” couldn’t be more accurate. It is a dark day because we are talking about New Zealand, a country few would associate with such acts of terror and extremism. It is certainly dark especially when the lives of innocent people who were exercising their freedom of worship were mercilessly cut short. 

What’s even worse is the manner in which the killing was carried out. Having it streamed line on social media, there was absolutely no regard for the value of human life. The monster who carried out the shooting went about his business as if he was in a live video game, firing off shot after shot without a care in the world.

How do you breed such heartless people? What makes a man do such a thing? And what kind of world have we gotten ourselves in when the act of killing people becomes the sort of video that immediately goes viral? Everybody who watched and clicked on the like and shared button should be ashamed. 

Where is human decency? Common sense?

There are grounds for people to argue that social media is a breeding ground for hatred and violence. But we’ve got to be careful here that we don’t just blame social media. Social media is a platform used by people, it doesn’t have a mind of its own. There is far more issues we need to look at in the wake of this tragedy.

Given the fact that white extremists have been blamed, some critics say the writing had been on the wall for some time. Indeed with the rise of social media, the rise in hate speech has become too readily accepted by some. 

And we see it everyday. Samoa is not immune.  Every time we let racism, sexism, religious intolerance, prejudices be normalized, we are inviting trouble. Which is precisely what has happened in this case.

Suffice to say, the shooting and the killing on Friday have changed New Zealand forever. Here in this part of the world, we cannot help but feel sad and mourn the unnecessary loss of life.

What happened in New Zealand is just too close to home to ignore. What is to stop one of those extremists from walking into a church in Auckland where our Samoan people are worshiping and doing the same thing? 

What is there to guarantee that none of these guys get on the plane and comes to Samoa and do something similar here? If anything, the tragedy in Christchurch is a massive wake up call for everyone. When it comes to acts of extremism and terrorism, no one is immune. New Zealand has experienced it and we cannot be complacent. 

That said, today is Sunday, our day of worship and rest. It is a moment to stop, whisper a prayer and reflect on the enormity of the tragedies of the past week. Whereas one was possibly triggered by an equipment malfunction, the killing in Christchurch was nothing but a terror attack, cowardly, horrible and one on innocent people at their sanctuary of worship. 

Remember them, their families and loved ones in your prayers today.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

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