This is Us
April 27, 2019 by kojin-heath
Article written for Yokoji Community Journal by Shinko Roshi, Green Mountain Zen, New Zealand.
Last month a lone gunman killed 50 people at 2 mosques in Christchurch (our largest city in the South Island). In New Zealand, we have always prided ourselves that these kind of things never happened in our islands—thinking, I suppose, that we had some kind of in-built egalitarian and socialist ethic which would never breed that kind of intolerance. We were wrong.
It’s the kind of act that makes you question assumptions about right and wrong, and if doing nothing to encourage harmony is as good as encouraging the killer to act. Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, made a statement shortly after the killings, “This is not us!” In some ways, to stem the opinions at home and overseas that New Zealand is not a land full of white supremacists, and also, I think, expressing the nation’s stunned disbelief.
But in many ways, this is us. Both the passive acceptance of day-to-day racism and the similar feelings of distancing and judgement about other people’s culture, sexuality, beliefs, etc. It’s really forced many of us to look inward and see what our part is in creating this suffering. Because the firing of bullets into a house of worship and live-filming it is only one point along a long path of separation, which we all may have walked along at some point.
Following the shootings, we held a ceremony—chanting, offering incense and reading out the names of the 50 people who had died. All but a few were immigrants to New Zealand, from places across the globe. One 14 year-old boy was a neighbor of friends in Christchurch, whom the kids had met last time we were down there. There are so many strands and connections to end in this place in space and time.
On the evening of this tragedy, I watched John Campbell—a much-loved NZ reporter—interview the Mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, and asked her what we could do as we struggled to come to grips with this event. She said the only way to get through the coming days was to find expressions of love and compassion, because that will unite us—not the hatred that is designed to divide us. In this I find hope, not only in the sentiment, but also that there are those in our society who turn up in the darkest times and show leadership and the way forward. A lesson for all of us in thought, speech and action.
Green Mountain Zen, NZ