Last Friday in New Zealand, a man entered two separate places of worship with a semi-automatic weapon, and opened fire. Fifty people are dead, with many more injured, while they were praying.
Three men have been arrested. The gunman has faced court, making white supremacist gestures. He filmed at least part of the attack, streaming it live on social media. He is said to have posted some kind of ‘manifesto’ online before committing this act where he stated plans to kill Moslems. The death toll would have been higher except that a person at the second mosque jumped on him and managed to take his weapon, causing him to run.
I, like many others, feel utterly bewildered when I hear about these crimes. I cannot comprehend how there are people in the world who think this is going to achieve something. I cannot understand what they hope to achieve. I cannot understand what possible outcome would be worth murder. Fifty people are dead. That is fifty people who will never see another day, plus the families and friends of those people left grieving. That is the injured and those lucky to have escaped, spending the rest of their lives having to deal with the trauma of this single day, plus all of their families and friends. That is who knows how many police and emergency service workers having to respond to such a scene and deal with the trauma. That is the families of the perpetrators, who will feel shame at their relatives’ actions, and may have to deal with the hate of those who believe in guilt by association. What have they achieved, besides their own infamy and the heartbreak of so many?
Why do people choose to hate each other anyway? Why do so many insist that someone else is worthy of hate because of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, politics, sexual preferences/gender, disability, age, the list just goes on and on. What do we find so hard about love? How much harm is done by all of this hate? So many are so angry these days, and anger is not necessarily a bad thing. Properly channelled, anger can be a catalyst for positive change. But instead of that, there is so much misplaced, misdirected anger, turning to rage, which turns to easily to violence. Is it really easier to hate?
The ease of communication, which can be such a positive thing, sometimes seems to be a platform for miscommunication. The same media that trumpets these men as monsters will quite happily report the divisive speech of our politicians on ‘illegal immigrants’ and such. Those self-same politicians decrying the murders today will go back to demonizing asylum-seekers tomorrow. Social media will give hate as much, if not more, of a platform as love. Comments on Facebook and Twitter are more likely to be full of verbal abuse than rational discussion. Don’t you just want to shout sometimes, “Will everyone just calm down??”
I have a million questions, but no real answers. The solution is both simple and very hard. It is written in scripture, in law, and in common sense. Thou shalt not commit murder. It’s easy, or it should be. But with the human capacity to rationalize every evil act with some ‘ends justify the means’ nonsense, it seems an impossible pipe dream.
God help us all.