Dear Christchurch victims,
I’m sorry as your sister, your sister in Islam, but also your sister in humanity.
On Friday, March 15 I was not at all surprised in the newsroom when we were alerted a rogue shooter had gunned down 40 (the count has since raised to 50) people in a Mosque. I was, however, shocked that it had taken place in the peaceful sister nation of Australia, New Zealand. This felt TOO close to home. No, I’m not saying the lives that were taken in American schools, streets of The UK or even an Egyptian church matter less. But for me, this hit home because as those shooters walked into a house of God – they did so with the intent to harm, innocent lives in a country which very much feels like our baby sibling.
Like most people, I was selfish – I sat down and thought, my God, what if it had been my dad, my cousin or my niece at that Friday prayer session? But I suppose you don’t need to be Muslim to feel that. If there is one place people should feel protected – it is in a religious setting. I won’t lie – yes I identify as a Muslim woman and am practising but I am by no means a spokesperson for the community. I do, however, know what it feels like to sit and kneel before your God as you chant scriptures that leave you feeling enlightened and at peace. In this day and age, some of us do so via meditation, others via religion – I’m spiritual so I do a bit of both. Now, let me take you back to 1999, as a little girl I used to go to the mosque on religious occasions, like Eid or in Ramadan, and I remember feeling so safe, while I was said bye to my dad and brother and walked over to the female section to find familiar faces of my girlfriends with scarves draped over their head. Sure, I was more excited about getting my Eid gift which was usually a wad of cash, but I was mostly elated knowing my dad and brother were in the next room praying to the same God. Another fond moment was anticipating the end of our prayers so I could jump in the car and routinely make my way to my aunties house for some Lebanese sweets or gelato. This is my memory. So for me, this is why I am saddened to think that you, all 50 victims – who had little boys and girls to nurture, parents to care for, and partners to love and go home to – have been robbed of these memories due to a heinous act.
I can lament on this tragedy forever, but this brings me to Sunday morning, two days after the event that rocked your family members, Christchurch and the world at large. As a typical 20-something Sydney sider, I made my way over to my local café for brunch.
While I waited for my coffee, I grabbed the Sunday papers and placed them side by side. But today, despite the political differences between Australia’s biggest papers (The Sunday Telegraph and The Sun Herald), these editions had printed covers which were equally touching.
I was impressed and felt the need to let my Instagram followers know that… As I took the photo, I felt a figure in my personal space – it’s a weird sentiment to speak to strangers but I looked over to him and mouthed: “I love her.” Her – being NZ prime minister Jacinda Ardern. What happened next shook me to my core. The middle-aged man, who was of Anglo-Saxon heritage didn’t nod in agreement, he didn’t yell, in fact, he didn’t even regard my emotional outburst. He simply looked at me a scoffed. Almost like he was disgusted that Ardern, a political figure had handled this act of terrorism with humility. At this stage, the barista called out my name… although one half of me wanted to throw the paper and my beverage in his face, I did what my God would want and I responded to him in peace. My mum (may God Rest her soul) always told me to approach each person at their level. In that split-second, I made the decision not to have it out in a public place and I understood that this man truly had differing views to mine. Instead of abusing him, which to be fair – fellow Muslims/humans would do – I stopped picked up my coffee and gave him a smile. Islam is a religion of peace, in memory of you all – no matter what happens in this world, our actions will speak louder than words.