Remembering Christchurch, condemning racism starts at home

Our thoughts and prayers with residents in Christchurch, New Zealand today, as they mark a week since an Australian-born gunman walked into two mosques in the scenic city and massacred 50 people.

And a lot has changed in a week since that gruesome act of human cruelty, the NZ government has stopped gun sales on Thursday, and banned military-style semi-automatic weapons, on top of initiating a buyback scheme to rid the community of guns. The reaction by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to the tragedy has been nothing short of impressive, her ability to rise above and beyond, and to be the beacon of hope for her nation of over 4 million people in a time of despair and uncertainty is truly admirable.

New Zealand-wide memorials are being planned for today. According to media reports, the Islamic Call to Prayer will be televised on TV and radio throughout New Zealand, to be followed by a two-minute silence. Haka performances are being planned and some women will wear headscarves – reportedly supported by the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand – as a sign of respect. 

White supremacists would recoil at how New Zealanders – including their inspirational Prime Minister – are responding to the callous crimes against humanity, perpetrated by those who continue to hold on to the fallacy, that they represent a superior race. And religious fanatics too, who foolishly believe that they have a higher calling to convert all and sundry, to take on and be converted to their religious beliefs, and practices.

But what can we – you and me – take away from the Christchurch tragedy and impart to our children and them to their children? We must learn to live in peaceful co-existence with one another and embrace love and respect for each other – overlooking our cultural, religious, political and economic differences – and in the process becoming more tolerant and inclusive of a fellow human being.

We should strongly condemn racism and the notions of superiority and refuse to accept the proposition that “we are better than them”, when it comes to discussing personal identities, nationalities and race.  

And those conversations should start at home. Our children should be told that it is wrong to call another child names, in reference to the color of their skin, their physical disability or even how they look. They should be taught the concept of respect for another child, and how calling each other by their names – rather than disrespectful “labels” – can open the door to long-term friendships.

Perhaps, it wasn’t a coincidence that the country – through Senese, Fia Malamalama and Loto Taumafai in partnership with the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (MESC), Nuanua o le Alofa and Samoa Cricket Association – celebrated the World Down Syndrome Day yesterday at the Tuanaimato in Apia.

Malama Parker from Senese spoke of their work, and how it is important for all of us to give those who are living with Down Syndrome, respect.

"We still hear people say they are ‘sick children’, even with parents. But they are not, if they were sick, they would have been given medicine and they’ll be better but no, it’s a natural effect.

"We need to give them the respect they deserve; we should not underestimate them," she said.

Ms Parker also spoke about the need for parents to put them in school.

"This is what our services are all about and what today’s all about; to encourage the parents that the children to attend schools because they can and they are able to attend schools.”

But there are parents who are not comfortable putting their children with Down Syndrome in school, to avoid placing them in a vulnerable environment where the risks of abuse are high. 

The New Zealand PM on Wednesday reportedly made a global appeal to combat the “ideology” of racism, following last Friday’s attack.

"What New Zealand experienced here was violence brought against us by someone who grew up and learned their ideology somewhere else. If we want to make sure globally that we are a safe and tolerant and inclusive world we cannot think about this in terms of boundaries," she said.

We support the call and firmly believe that conversation should start at home, between the parents and their children and with no stones unturned. If you and I cannot do it then who else will in our strive to create a better and peaceful world?

Have a lovely Friday Samoa and God bless. 

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