I had another kickin’ post ready to go today, but in the wake of the Christchurch Mosque Shootings, I just can’t bring myself to publish it. This is a moment in history when racially motivated gun violence reached the shores of a country where gun violence like this is far outside the norm. I know the USA is rife with gun violence. I know that Middle East Countries suffer terrorism far more often than we know – so often that it rarely makes the news. I’m not discounting that. What I am saying is that for Australians, this far-right extremist terrorism was a warning to us – a warning all of us must heed.
One of my closest friends is a person of colour, and oh how she has opened my eyes to the plight of other people of colour in my country. I used to proudly say that “I’m Australian. We don’t have a problem with racism here.” Now that I have spent time listening to her, I know that was about the whitest thing I could say. I had no idea until I sought to understand. Until that point, I was blissfully blind to it.
We do have a problem with racism. Exhibit A: an Australian man walked in to two New Zealand Mosques and killed 50 worshippers in what he made clear was a racially based attack. While it might be tempting to ‘tsk tsk‘ and say this is not us, we can’t afford to do that.
Because the behaviour we have excused, ignored or turned a blind eye to is behaviour that has grown and exacerbated. Now I don’t want to play the blame game exactly. But in truth, I feel like its just as problematic to say “its nobody’s fault,” as to say “its everybody’s fault” when perhaps both things are true. Either way, if we want the blight of terrorism to be expunged from our ranks, we all need to be a little less apathetic, a little more vigilant and a lot less likely to let hate speech slide. No, you can’t stop every act of terrorism. You aren’t the terrorist. But you can call out the racist, Islamophobic BS that you come across in every day life because fear and misinformation are a lethal combination.
We might have been blind to this stuff before. And I hope that its more obvious now that some of the problematic ideologies, and the people that hold them, have reared their heads. But you don’t start out as a ranting, raving, gun waving white supremacist. The slippery slope starts long before there. That’s what we missed and can’t risk missing anymore.
The moments since the Christchurch shooting have flushed out some of the white supremacist rhetoric hiding in our own ranks. I’m not going to show the comments I’ve seen on political pages ( with some page followers claiming the terrorist should be given an award – among other vile, inflammatory comments!) I don’t need to recount the Fraser Anning response to it, or add the other political commentary riling up hate and fear before it. The internet is doing a good enough job of recounting this stuff.
Fraser Anning is just one loudmouth. Years before he attracted the 19 votes that propelled him into parliament (!!!), and even before Pauline Hanson’s resurgence and the re-energising of the One Nation Party, I stood up the back of a church completely unimpressed as the figurehead of a Christian minority party railed against the dangers of Islam and encouraged people to rise up against it.
There was a militance in his air – it was a call to arms and not just a political roadshow (at least in my opinion). Harmless? I didn’t think so then and I don’t think so now.
But what’s the point of all of this? What should we, as Christians, as conscientious members of society, do differently if anything? I have a few thoughts on that.
A few observations from the fallout
Its easy for Christians to get caught up in a freedom of religion argument and believe this only applies to them. But if there is only freedom of religion for one group of people, then we don’t really have it. We only have an exclusion clause in state control.
Its easy for Christians to point to Muslims or Islam as the root of the terrorism problem. But here it was a far-right extremist and his accomplices who undertook the terrorist act. Far-right extremism can breed terrorists too. This is not a moment to point to all the harm Islamic extremists have done as if its justification for what has just happened.
No. The cornerstone of Christianity is love. Compassion. Forgiveness.
It makes my heart sink when I read Christians contributing to societal panic about Muslims, minorities, refugees, etc. Please. Don’t spread this misinformation. Before you share an article on Islam, find a Muslim. Sit with them. Ask their opinion. Before you say “We don’t have a problem with racism,” find a person of colour. Sit with them. Ask them of their experience.
And before you offer your hearty agreement to those who talk about taking back Australia from the clutches of Islam, or immigrants, or any other group, ask yourself whether you might be at the top of the slippery slope into a nasty state of things. Statements about “protecting our way of life”, or telling people to “go home, we are full,” or “if you don’t like our way of life, go home,” might seem like they aren’t worth scrutiny. Heck, we hear them often enough, But they are gateway statements. They set up an animosity towards anyone we regard as an “other”. They soften the ground for more extreme comments and attitudes.
The place where such rhetoric gets thrown around is fertile ground for racism or Islamophobia to grow. For most, hate speech will stay speech. For others, it won’t. So here we are: with a red neck posse here in Australia defending and praising the abhorrent actions of a white supremacist – a far-right terrorist.
For a long time, it has seemed inevitable to me that the narrative of the far-right would reach such fever pitch that terrorism would spring from its own ranks. This week it did. A sad day indeed.
I hope and pray we never see another Holy War. But the only way we can avoid this is to make white supremacist talk completely unacceptable, to exercise compassion to our Muslim and Middle Eastern communities, to respect their right for freedom of religion as much as our own.
I like what New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern said. “They are us.”
They are our neighbours. Lets love them as we love ourselves.
Anyway that’s my lame attempt and putting thoughts around this tragedy as it seems to have gotten to me more than usual. I leave you with this pic I took from The Equality Institute (just incase you needed a little extra convincing that apathy isn’t ok.)