Murder in Christchurch, New Zealand

News of the murderous attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, began to come in as I was listening to the World Service.* Even now, the details are not clear but what we do know is sickening. The sheer brutality of the attackers with their live-streaming of their actions recalls some of the worst horrors of IS, but at least one of the attackers appears to be an Australian citizen with hard-right views on immigration. No one has a monopoly on hatred. We struggle to find words adequate to the shock and disgust we feel, but there are none that can really express our revulsion or sadness. Feelings of anger and rage bubble to the surface, but what are we to do with them?

As it happens, today’s Mass readings provide us with a kind of commentary on our own reactions. Ezekiel 18. 21–28 reminds us that God does not see or judge as we see and judge. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but desires their conversion. While we thirst for vengeance and call it ‘justice’, God yearns for the sinner’s reconciliation. Similarly, the gospel, Matthew 5.20–26, contains a hard teaching about being reconciled with our brother if he has something against us — not, please note, if we have something against him. In other words, God sets the bar of compassion and forgiveness very high. On the Cross his Son showed how very costly it would prove.

Today many of us will have difficulty reconciling our desire to follow Christ’s lead with our feelings of anger and horror. The trouble is, we have no choice. We must forgive; we must not thirst for vengeance. Part of our problem is that we tend to usurp God’s role when it comes to judging, but forget him entirely when it comes to forgiving. Forgiveness, we must remember, is never a once-for-all act. It is a repeated act, a constant dashing against Christ of every negative thought and feeling. The New Zealand authorities will have to investigate, prosecute and meet out punishment for the vile crime committed in Christchurch, but all of us have the duty to do what we can to show compassion and bring about reconciliation. Just now there are many grieving hearts we cannot comfort save though prayer, but let us make sure that we do that at least.

*A side effect of cancer is that sleep patterns are disturbed. The World Service can be a great help to the insomniac.


10 thoughts on “Murder in Christchurch, New Zealand”

  1. I too heard the unfolding news on the World Service through the night last night. My reasons for frequent wakefulness in the night are different from yours and much more prosaic, but from now on now I will pray in unity with you and all others who find solace in being part of the World Service community in the small hours…

  2. Thank You
    The reminder that forgiveness is a repeated act certainly helps in these dreadful situations when our anger and revulsion surfaces .
    It is though a hard call, and only through prayer can I manage to follow this .
    It is only by remembering the Cross and the sacrifice of our Saviour for our forgiveness and reconciliation to God that I in any measure achieve the forgiveness of those who perpetrate these and other dreadful acts.I freely admit to struggling with the crimes against women especially the Yatsidi Christians usesd as sexual slaves by Isis bought and sold and stripped of any humanity ,
    !ord have mercy on us .

  3. Terrible, terrible news.
    Behaviour is incredibly complex. When we went to Australia a few years ago we noticed that there were very many Asian immigrants, which may be linked to the Common Market, when I think Australia and New Zealand had to turn to Asia as a replacement market for us – which I hadn’t realised. So that may be a root of prejudice.
    My son David works for the World Service and is currently struggling with depression and a breakdown. I’ll tell him how much it helps you.

  4. If more people had listened to the World Service before voting for Brexit they might have thought differently, it was far more informative than any of the UK news channels which is often the case with many topics.

  5. Can you imagine being the shooter’s parents, extended family members, former neighbours and others who came in contact with him through the years long before this atrocity was committed? The collateral damage will be enormous, many lives forever changed. The ripple effect we feel is part of that reality as we grieve for all the victims.

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