who have sent messages of regret and goodwill.
Nine days ago our country was rocked by an event that few here expected would ever happen in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Even though we’re not so naïve to believe it’s perfect, we Kiwis often refer to this place as ‘God’s Own’ or ‘Godzone’.
As the perpetrator of this horrendous event apparently made clear before he carried it out, he chose New Zealand as the place for his hate-inspired action for the very reason that most here would think it would be the very last part of the world it could occur. In that belief alone, he was right, which made us wrong. Hence the shockwave that resounded through the country, and will continue to do so.
When, on that first dreadful day, I heard of his statement that his purpose was to send a warning to the Muslim world that if this could happen to their people here they were not safe anywhere, I knew he had failed to understand the mind of New Zealanders.
He was too young to know that we are the people who, in 1981, stopped a rugby tour in order to demonstrate to South Africa we did not agree with its policy of apartheid.
And he was too young to know that this is not the first time Aotearoa-New Zealand has experienced international terrorism on our shores. Thirty-four years ago the French government sent a team of secret agents to bomb the Greenpeace vessel, Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland Harbour in order to stop it leading a flotilla in protest at nuclear testing at Mururoa atoll in French Polynesia. That time too the planners underestimated the reaction of our citizens.
On that occasion, so incensed were we that our land had been made the scene of such an abhorrent deed, and so indignant that our sovereignty had been breached, that the population rose as one against the act. Within days some of the agents were arrested to be put on trial.
Even more spectacular was the way the population rallied in support of the planned protest. People who had barely thought of the issues before, flocked to donate money, goods, ships to make the voyage, so it could go ahead. This little-nation-that-could stood against larger powers, in solidarity with its smaller South Pacific island nations, and passed nuclear-free legislation, a stance that is still supported fiercely.
It was not the place of this recent terrorist to try to overthrow our policy to allow immigrants to become citizens of this country. By doing so, he flouted the hospitality he himself had been shown as a visitor here.
If he knew us, he would have known how New Zealanders of every faith and none, would strip gardens and florists bare of flowers to place in front of mosques and Islamic centres around the country, how we would stand outside those places to ensure that those inside could pray in safety. He could have foreseen that Kiwi women, heads scarf-covered, would stand alongside their Muslim ‘sisters’.
He might have known that at so many of those gatherings a haka, either rehearsed or spontaneous, would demonstrate the fervour of our intent. Anyone visiting these shores should never, ever, underestimate the power and the warning of the haka.
From his cell in solitary confinement this murderer won’t know of the events of the days that followed – how people would embrace Muslims in the street, invite their neighbours into their homes. He will be ignorant of the rallies as people massed to state their opposition to his hate. He would not know that those martyred were buried at the state’s expense, and of the multi-million dollars collected to help their families. On the following Friday as the nation stopped to remember, he didn’t hear the Islamic call to prayer broadcast on National Radio, but by default he joined in the two-minute silence observed across Aotearoa.
If this murderer had thought of the reactions around this country he might have thought again about coming here on his mission of hate. As it is, he has made us more united.