It’s just a number, one of a several which struck me over this last week.
We have all, here in New Zealand and in the wider world, felt the impact one way or another, of the attack in Christchurch on a small segment of our society.
Until that fateful Friday there were an estimated 50,000 New Zealanders identifying as Muslim. By the end of that sunny Christchurch afternoon, the number was 49,950.
Mathematics has never been my strong point, but even I can see the massive impact losing one in ever 1000 is going to have. New Zealand is a small nation with a low population. The Islamic community is but a small part of us but it needs to be acknowledged, the Call to Prayer has been heard on these shores since the late 1840’s. As much a founding tenant of this nation as any other.
Twenty- one minutes. Quite a long time when you break it down. Imagine how much you can achieve in that time frame?
Given twenty-one minutes, the New Zealand Police were able to not only respond to the hideous scenes at two different locations, effectively and efficiently, they also had the perpetrator in custody.
Questions have been raised over whether there were more targets, or if indeed he gave himself up, but the fact remains, within twenty-one minutes the threat was eliminated.
Situation over and not a single further shot fired. Quite remarkable I reckon.
Well done NZ Police.
There many more numbers relating to this hideous event.
The number of people in our hospitals and morgues, mopping it all up. The support staff and agency personnel working with the victims and their families, the politicians and policy makers racing to change our gun laws. The number of bouquets and cards and messages lining Deans Ave and in Linwood.
The highest number is reserved for the throngs of people who have shown their support, love and compassion in a time when those traits were most needed.
The lowest number?
When the name and age of the youngest victim was read out, I lost it.
I had been saddened, had been angry and uncomprehending and had felt a sense of disbelief and loss and yes, my eyes had moistened on many occasions over the week.
But when a list of names and ages was released on Wednesday, read out on Magic Radio, detailing the first of the poor souls to be returned to their families, I broke down.
Not for long, not a complete letting go. I carried on with my work, only the full fruit of the surrounding Kiwifruits vines witness to my moment of grief.
I asked myself then and I still do, how does the death of an innocent child further anyone’s cause, in any way?
Of course, there is no rational answer to such a question because simply, the death of a child serves no purpose.
Yesterday I stepped away from work and with my family, attended the Whangarei Islamic Center.
Little more than a shed down a dusty drive in a light industrial area of town, we were one of the first to arrive in preparation to the call to prayer. We weren’t there ahead of the heavily armed police officers on duty.
Strange, how intimidating and how comforting that armed presence proved to be.
We read the tributes, were invited inside to take in the space and then a speech was made by a Palestinian member of our community, telling of the Muslim appreciation of the aroha they had been blessed with over the previous seven days. He spoke of unity, of togetherness and support and sounded every bit the hurting representative of a wronged group and very much a representative of hope and love.
There were many people attending, from all walks of life, adorned in scarves or without. people like me who had skipped out of work and were obviously planning on returning. People like my wife who donned a scarf and cradled two curious, shy and impatient children.
For two minutes we were silent (actually, Wee-Man failed bitterly in that regard).
there was a oneness in it, that silence.
Then the call to prayer.
I dropped the kids home, returning to work for the afternoon.
Life going as as normal.
Fleetingly, on the drive between Mosque and work, I thought it might be time to be done with it.
To be done with him.
Friday, the memorials around the country, the vigils at mosques and in the stadiums and town squares, all helped. A big step on the pathway of grieving and recovery that we all, as Muslims as new Zealanders, are currently on.
So, do we need him any more? Does he need to be in our courts?
Does he need to be in our headlines? Exactly where he wants to be?
How simple it would be, to just end him.
But, I am not the eye for an eye type. I think.
Now is a time for rational thinking. Acknowledge the grief and the hurt and the pain.
Acknowledge the anger.
The best we can do now is talk, ask the hard questions and not stop asking them until they are answered and most important of all, stop the voice of evil, the words of the wicked, so often the loudest, from being heard.