Last week, Aotearoa New Zealand – beloved homeland for some of us, cherished neighbour to others – came face to face with the shadow of violence. For many of us, this was an unthinkable act, in a nation renowned for its kindness.

As we deal with the fall-out of this event – the inevitable explanations, recriminations, investigations and debates – there are important ways we can nurture ourselves, our loved ones and our wider community.

Firstly, and most importantly, if you are (or if someone close to you is) overwhelmed with feelings of despair or anxiety, please seek the help of a trusted professional. It is common for traumatic events to ignite or amplify feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and depression. Help is available, and the people around you – including those of us in the ANZA community – will support you through this time of vulnerability.

At times like this, the isolation of distance can leave us feeling helpless and out of control. However, there are things that you can do, right here, right now, to help facilitate progress and healing. You can do this by supporting official fundraising channels for victims and their families; writing letters of compassion and support through organisations such as; visiting a local mosque, introducing yourself to a neighbour or making a social connection, in some other way, with a group or culture other than your own.

Next, be mindful of the impact of social media on your mindset and overall well-being. It’s wise at times like this to ‘switch off’ the online chatter, and seek out authentic social connections with people who leave you feeling good.

Finally, these moments of darkness allow us all to re-evaluate the role we play in creating our society. The world is a smaller place than we realise and studies show that our individual approach to life cascades through our social circles, like ripples, to have far-reaching consequences.

It’s a powerful force for good when we learn to review our habitual speaking patterns and unconscious biases. Take this moment to consider the words you use and the thoughts you harbour towards those who are not like you; to those who express their values differently. And give yourself permission to change those patterns if you believe they contribute, in any way, to a society you would rather not create.

Ultimately, it is unity and tolerance that was attacked last week – and these are the very traits we ought to reach for, now, in order to move forward. We each have the capacity for love – deep, healing, unifying. And with a little effort, self-awareness and conscious compassion, we can each facilitate a kinder, more loving world. The choice is ours.

Unuhia te rito o te harakeke, kei hea te kōmako e kō?
Ui mai ki ahau, ‘He aha te mea nui o te Ao?’
Māku e kī atu,
‘He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.’

If you remove the central shoot of the flax bush, where will the bellbird find rest?
If you were to ask me, ‘What is the most important thing in the world?’
I would reply,
‘It is people, it is people, it is people.’

– NZ Māori whakataukī (proverb)


Kim Forrester, ANZA member and columnist