A couple of weeks ago the world received news of the mass shooting in Christchurch, NZ and the shock wave rippled far and wide. The murder of so many people, of all ages in a short space of time and in an environment where they had every right to feel safe, gave rise to a tidal wave of emotion.
Here in Australia many felt stunned and upset that an Australian citizen could impose such horror on our neighbours in a country that, like many, has embraced multi-culturalism and is welcoming and inclusive of people from diverse faiths and religious background.
It also triggered an increased sense of vulnerability, particularly for those of Islamic faith, fear for their own safety and that of family and friends when simply going about their daily lives, as we all do.
Sadly, the hatred, isolation, blame and abuse across the world directed at certain groups due to their race, religion, beliefs, gender or sexual preference is nothing new, in fact it has been around for thousands of years with different groups as the perpetrators. But what drives it? Often it is greed, jealousy or fear but most often it is because we are ill-informed and biased and as a result, we make assumptions about a particular group of people and then find or are fed information that fits those assumptions and they become our reality.
None of that is true however. Good and evil is represented in every group, society and demographic across the globe. Negatively labelling and denigrating an entire group and identifying them as the ‘enemy’ can lead to individuals buying into the propaganda and lies and lead them to take up arms, verbally and literally, against that group in whatever extreme reaction they believe to be ‘just’.
There is nothing to be gained by adding hate to hate, anger to anger or fear to fear; that just creates an energetic and emotionally contagious maelstrom that creates more mayhem and chaos. This is not who we are, but what can we do?
The overwhelming grief and sadness that many felt as a result was channelled into support of those affected and saw many communities hold vigils and take a moment to remember those who died. In Mackay around 300 people came together in a vigil organised in 24-hours by Amnesty International; it was a diverse, multicultural and multi-faith group of all ages who gathered together, holding space and listening to local community leaders share their respects and offering support and solace.
To me, the important thing is to remember we are all human and feel others’ hurt and pain and at times like this we must demonstrate our compassion, connection and strength of community.
We all want to feel safe and live the life we choose in a caring and harmonious environment so it is vital that we reach out in any way we can at times like this to help everyone feel reassured that we will do all we can to prevent something like this will from happening here.