Reshaping our communities in the wake of the mosque attacks

I feel unable to write about the events in Christchurch last week - nor am I able to write about anything else.

In some ways, there is nothing we can say - in other ways, we cannot say enough. Right now, we can reach out to our local and international Muslim communities in love and peace - is there more?

What we saw on Friday is not who we think we are, unfortunately though, it is who some people are. We cannot believe anymore that we are a safe country at the bottom of the world - we probably never were.

I have found myself in the last few days, like most people, perplexed and trying to understand what happens to make someone do something like this. We can blame gun rules or Donald Trump, they are simple answers, but truly understanding how someone ends up in society's underbelly, isolated from society or with an extremist mindset is more complex.

A couple of years ago, I read Sue Klebold's memoir A Mother's Reckoning. She wrote her memoir 16 years after her son Dylan Klebold and his friend Eric Harris killed 12 pupils, a teacher and then both committed suicide in the Columbine High School massacre.

The book is both compelling and horrifying. I read into the small hours, simply because I couldn't stop reading, and when I did stop, I couldn't sleep. I wouldn't recommend the book, but on the other hand I would highly recommend it as a book to challenge us in what we think we know.

Many in the Columbine community immediately turned their blame on the parents, surely such horrors must come from horror? Yet Sue Klebold came across like any normal mum - she probably was. She missed signs of depression in her son that perhaps a professional would have picked up - perhaps not. In her memoir she examined every detail of their family life, her relationship with her son, and their community life. Nothing is left un-turned, no excuses are made. I was left believing she could be any one of us.

Her memoir demonstrates that these types of killings are not simple, they don't happen because the police missed important information on social media, they don't happen because of gun laws, they don't happen because of computer games, they don't happen because of political statements by Donald Trump, they don't happen because one person is mentally ill.

They happen because of all of these things and so much more.

As we heal from what happened in the Christchurch mosques and reshape our communities as a result, of course we must do what we can to reduce the chances of this happening - changing gun laws is a no-brainer.

Most importantly, we must do what we can on an everyday basis to support those in our community who are unsupported, whether that be in schools or in the streets, and we must call out statements and commentary which is bigoted in any way.

We need to do this through actions as well as words - even when it's hard to show love - we need to keep trying.

We are all shocked by the Christchurch atrocities and very, very sad - but are we really surprised? The Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand warned police of increasing racism directed at their community - does this surprise anyone? No, because we know these people are out there, mainstream and on the fringes.

If any good ever comes out of this, then let it be this: we learn to listen more, we learn to care more, we learn to act when we need to, even when it feels like a minor act. The complexities of these atrocities came about through people living in environments we help contribute to.

In the words of Mahatma Ghandi ''You must be the change you wish to see in the world.''

-Anna Campbell is managing director of AbacusBio Ltd, a Dunedin based agri-technology company.


time to move on