When I think of New Zealand (as many folks here do) it’s of vast beauty from incredible scenery in the Lord of the Rings movies. The Kiwis I’ve known and worked with overseas have always been warm and hospitable (who love their rugby!)
Last Friday an extremist turned the beautiful & hospitable country of New Zealand into a kill zone by gunning down 50+ people in the city of Christchurch during worship services at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre.
The ages of the dead ranged from 2 to 71.
There’s a Tolkien line in The Two Towers, “So much death! What can men do against such reckless hate?” In the aftermath of this senseless violence (& similar such tragedies around the world) it’s a valid question.
What can we do? We can offer our sincere condolences (but that doesn’t bring back the lives of the people killed.) We can empty our pocketbooks to help families of the victims. (That might temporarily put a band-aid on things.)
We can light candles in honor of the dead.
We can remember them: their lives, their faith, their hopes & decimated dreams.
We can pray.
Maybe some of you may think what’s up with that? How can we believe in God when such senseless violence happens? But who knows, perhaps without prayer the perpetrator of this heinous crime may not have been stopped in 21 minutes (he was on his way to a 3rd location when caught.)
“You cannot reap what you have not sown. How are we going to reap love in our community, if we only sow hate?” St. Archbishop Óscar Romero
As a former relief & development worker who lived in conflict zones where bombs routinely blew up civilians and innocent people were sliced and diced into mass graves, I have seen the results of senseless violence and the cycle it perpetuates.
But, I have also seen (& know) beacons of Light in dark places. People of hope, who can still hope (despite multifaceted darkness) and continue building bridges of understanding one stone, however small, at a time.
These people of hope are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, wives, husbands, teachers, doctors, nurses, students, business people, religious leaders (I know imams & rabbis & priests who have risked much to build bridges of understanding in the Middle East) and even children who have done extraordinary things to bring fractured communities together.
What can we do against reckless hate?
We can seek to BE LOVE. Not talking hippie free power flower love…
No, I’m talking BE LOVE by tangibly doing things that affirm others, that slaps denigration with affirmation that we are all part of this big human family. Whether we are pink, purple, blue or green – whatever our faith, gender, orientation may be – we can extend our hands (& open our hearts) to everyone.
At the end of the day, love is stronger than hate, because love unites us – it doesn’t divide or denigrate. It lifts others up.
“I don’t want to be an anti, against anybody. I simply want to be the builder of great affirmation: the affirmation of God, Who loves us.” St. Archbishop Óscar Romero (murdered in El Salvador, 24 March 1980)
Here’s a powerful song that resonates today from Playing For Change, an organization that promotes world peace and social change by uniting musicians from around the world. (Email readers, you know the drill, link to the Roses website to view.)
grace, peace & united hearts
p.s. Playing for Change unites musicians from all corners of the globe in their songs & videos. Pictured at one point in the United video, the Omagh Community Youth Choir from Northern Ireland was formed in 1998 to heal and unite after a tragic bombing in their town. Since then Catholic and Protestant children (& their parents) have come together united through music. On the Playing for Change CD in my collection (‘Songs Around the World’) the choir sings “Love Rescue Me.” A truly moving rendition!