Kia kaha, Christchurch

Atta Elayyan worked for a tech company, and was goalkeeper for the New Zealand futsal team.

Haroon Mahmood taught business studies classes; Amjad Hamid was a cardiologist, while Lilik Abdul Hamid was an Air New Zealand engineer.

Mucad Ibrahim was just 3 years old; Abdullahi Dirie was 4.

They are but a few of those killed on Friday, as New Zealand lost its innocence.

The nation is mourning the actions of a gunman, incited by ultra right murderous views and hatred, after 50 were killed and dozens injured in a few depraved minutes in Christchurch.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke for all New Zealanders when she said those killed were "us''.

Those words were all the more poignant for Dunedin.

While this ghastly event took place very close to home, if the killer had followed through on his original plans it actually would have taken place at our city mosque.

There has been an outpouring of love for the Muslim community. Brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents have paid a terrible price and the community needs and deserves our unqualified support.

We feel the pain and suffering of the innocent whose Muslim faith proved a magnet for delusional white supremacist rantings and hatred. We also feel the pain of a community which has experienced heartbreak and suffering following two devastating earthquakes that shook the region to its core.

The Deans Ave mosque stands in Christchurch's tranquil Hagley Park.

It was a quiet oasis, with a congregation which took pride in their place of worship, holding regular open days and welcoming all visitors.

That its jade carpets and white walls have now been stained ruby red is appalling, and this deluded and depraved act saw New Zealand's peace-loving and welcoming reputation shattered.

Terrorism strikes unimaginable pain, suffering and fears throughout the world and until now we were isolated from the direct impacts.

We watched, from the comfort of the lounge room, and reeled in horror at a world increasingly being torn apart by extremists, but we took some comfort in the knowledge we lived, worked and played in a safe haven. Not any more.

There was evil lurking within. The 28-year-old Australian-born Dunedin resident Brenton Tarrant appeared in court on Saturday and was charged with murder.

He lived in our community but escaped the attention of authorities. The Government has said he was not on any extremist watchlists and travelled the world regularly.

It is believed that Tarrant was living in Dunedin from at least August 2017 and travelled through the Middle East and Afghanistan last year. A hate-filled manifesto was released by the gunman before the killings but until then he had apparently given little indication of his murderous intent.

Were the signals ignored by our intelligence services and just how vigilant is our border security? We need answers as the nation's security has been challenged and found wanting. This was a detailed and planned attack that had been a number of years in the making.

The relative ease in which Tarrant was able to legally own high-powered firearms has raised alarms, prompting Ms Ardern to promise changes to our guns laws. This cannot come soon enough.

For now though, the focus should be on us. On 14-year-old year 10 Cashmere High School pupil Sayyad Milne, on teacher Naeem Rashid, on Syrian refugee Khaled Mustafa, who just months ago thought he had come to a safe country.

That was what New Zealand thought we were, until being dramatically reminded we are part of a world community where terrorism is not an abstract discussion but an awful reality.

This week we bury our people. Next week, the first step will be changes to our gun laws, followed by inquiries and trials.

New Zealand's image as a safe place to visit and live has been shaken. We will rise above this but the wounds have cut deep. It will take time.

 

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