Christchurch remembered

Al salam Alaikum. Peace be upon you. And peace be upon all of us …

For many of us, the memory of the terrorist shooting in Christchurch in March will always be softened by the grace with which New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern applied herself when addressing Parliament, Christchurch families and her nation. So it was more than apt that Rachel Colombo opened the vigil at Well Thumbed Books, Cobargo, on 13 April with her words. Rachel continued with Jacinda Ardern’s address to the House:

… I wanted to speak directly to the families.
We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage. We can.
And we will surround you with aroha, manaakitanga and all that makes us, us. Our hearts are heavy but our spirit is strong …

One by one, the Well Thumbed Poets presented pieces written in response to the event.

inside the mosque a holy place
the community has come to pray
a walking nightmare holding a gun
shoots again and again and again
blood, broken bodies and screams fracture the sacred day.

(excerpt, a stone thrown, Sandra Taylor)

A blind prejudice
Allowing an inchoate sense of exclusion
to invite fear to curdle towards hate,
and hate to spill towards

(excerpt, A Lament for Christchurch, Ian McFarlane)

Fifty people died when a right-wing terrorist, armed with assault rifles, opened fire during Friday prayers at two Christchurch mosques on 15 March. Also from the Prime Minister’s address, ‘Hati Mohemmed Daoud Nabi … was the 71-year-old man who opened the door at the Al-Noor mosque and uttered the words ‘Hello brother, welcome’. His final words.’

Your blood runs into the street
Your breath ebbs on a call to prayer

(excerpt, green and red, Linda Albertson)

Vigils and tributes arose—immediately and spontaneously.

in our hearts – the message is clear:
this attempt to divide has failed miserably.
Vigils are lighting up around the earth
in solidarity, with floral tributes and messages

(excerpt, Kia Kaha, Rachel Colombo)

In darkness a lone cyclist stops
He sprinkles the flowers
From his plastic water bottle 

(excerpt, On a Perth Pavement, Kate Taylor)

The terrorist, an Australian from Grafton, NSW, has been charged with fifty counts of murder. Jacinda Ardern: ‘ I implore you: speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.’

Nor will his name appear here.

Juxtaposition – love! hate!
May love come to reign over this!

(excerpt, untitled, Hazel Davenport)

This bee doesn’t know there is a wall
to keep apart what’s mine and what is yours
wee bee you’re doing just what you  must do
ours is the task of separating who from who

(excerpt, Of bees and walls, Jennifer Hawkins)

Turn away from the door
return the bullets to the gun
throw the gun in the sea.
Let the mothers live to hold their grandchildren
the husbands and wives to grow old together.

(excerpt, Two mosques in Christchurch, Kai Jensen)

As the Cobargo vigil came to a close, Shannon Russack sang the Maori lament Hoki Hoki in a sweet, fluting soprano. She learned it at school nearly eighty years ago.

Kai Jensen addresses the gathering. Kai ‘s family moved to New Zealand when he was five. He lived there for 39 years before moving to Australia.

(First published in The Triangle community newspaper in May 2019. Visit the Triangle website to see the poems in full, and more.)

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