I can’t understand how it happens. How does someone generate so much hatred in their heart that they stockpile weapons and ammunition and plan to perpetrate such an atrocity as we witnessed unfold in two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand only a few days ago? Every time there is a mass shooting in our world I wonder these things, and each and every time I come up with no answers that help explain the tragedy of senseless loss of life that we witness.
As the stories of the death count rose I am instantly caught up in imagining what was happening for those people, going about their usual daily rituals, on this occasion, going to pray, only to end up being the victim of an attack. One harrowing statistic I read was that with the relative population size of New Zealand, if a comparable mass shooting had occurred in the United States of America, to be the equivalent in scale due to the difference in population the victim count would need to be 3993 dead. Just let that number sink in for a moment.
This post is not about the merits or otherwise of gun control, or social media censorship, or hate crimes, or mental health, or Muslim vs Christian, or fundamentalism and extremism. This post is about searching for the beauty that can grow from ashes.
As a leader of two church congregations I had the privilege this Sunday to lead a time of prayer for both our communities to spend some moments reflecting about all those impacted by this terribly sad event for our neighbours over the sea. On a table at the front of our churches I had placed a lit pillar candle as well as a simple poster that stated we were praying for Christchurch. As some music played I gave opportunity for those who would like to come forward and sign their name, or make their mark to indicate that they were indeed praying for New Zealand.
At each service I was blessed to witness the first people to move to sign our posters were our children. So blessed, in fact, it brought tears. Both times. These innocent souls did not hesitate to put their name to praying for those so impacted by this violent act. These same children see images on their screens far more graphic than I did when I was their age, and here they were putting their name to say “I can’t do much to stop this pain, but I can pray.”
While I can’t make sense of the hatred of one individual, I see hope in the love and compassion demonstrated by our little people in our churches. May our future be brighter because of them.
I wish, Christchurch, that I could take your pain away. Please know that you are being embraced not only by us, but by many people across this nation and the rest of the world. Beauty will grow.