It will soon be two weeks since the madness that was the 15/3 tragedy and it is only now, with times valuable perspective, that we can actually look back with any real clarity and forward with any clear vision.
By we I mean the general populace of our fair country, not the poor souls whose families and friends were murdered on that darkest of days.
For the rest of us will go about our business and live our lives, our memory of the day becoming distant and our thoughts less frequent and despite the best of intentions, if history is any guide we will probably change very little.
Not so those who now have only memories, precious memories to be sure but still just memories. Time will dull the ache but grief will be carried in their hearts for many years, probably forever.
I wish them well, I wish them healing and above all else, I wish that peace be with them.
Like us all, I have spent the last couple of weeks evaluating my thoughts and actions in the light of what happened, looking deep inside for hidden prejudices and reviewing both my own and my countries response to the multiple issues that the cowardly attack raised here in Godzone.
It is one thing to have opinions and ideas about various issues when they seemingly belong to some other country and are just a segment on the television news.
It’s quite another to line them up against the unspeakable reality that happened in our own backyard and I have found it sobering to confront and dissect my own beliefs.
I have been, and still remain, a vehement protector of free speech. I believe freedom should and must be protected. If honest dialogue and the risk of causing offense are not allowed then how do we grow, develop, and flesh out the complex issues we face as a society. I believe we need the freedom to speak honestly and in fact, I believe we need more speech, more dialogue, more exchanging of views, not less.
However, there is a line, that when crossed, turns free speech into hate speech.
Where is that line?
I think religion has many faults, it has caused and still causes unspeakable evil in the world. As a Christian I often ask particularly challenging and uncomfortable questions about Christianity, I am openly hostile to some of its traditions, scathing of some of its histories but genuinely believe in Christ and attempt to follow his teachings.
Religions like Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Christianity should and must be questioned, as should the interpretations of their sacred writings. If any religion imposes itself upon my right to freedom and to live my life as I see fit under our laws, then make no mistake, I will challenge it.
But there is a way to do that with respect for other views.
What is that way?
It was mentioned recently on a television programme that all New Zealanders were responsible to some degree for what happened in Christchurch and we should all collectively shoulder some of the blame. Honestly, I struggle with that, I really do, for facts say that a lone wolf terrorist came from another country and targeted our peaceful Muslim community to show that nowhere is immune.
I expect we should show grief, support, and empathy but should we as a country be feeling any shame or guilt for what one man from another country did?
Are we all responsible for the actions of one psychopathic deranged killer?
Are you? Am I?
These are difficult questions and as such, they won’t be answered by shallow thinking, platitudes or bumper sticker answers. They are questions that ultimately, we can only answer individually because, in the final analysis, though we may belong to groups, we are all individuals.
Amongst all these questions, as our country tries to navigate its way forward as best it can, I remain convinced of one thing.
Our country may have its faults, its flaws and its issues, name a country that doesn’t, and Yes, we can and must do better, but I am fiercely proud of how, in our country’s darkest hour, New Zealanders reacted with dignity, compassion, support and love to those who needed it.
Amid all the horror, that’s something to be proud of!
Well done Aotearoa. That was us!