Image drawn by Shaun Yeo
In the many conversations I’ve had over the last five days, I’ve noticed how differently people are processing the unspeakable assault on our Muslim community. I wanted to share a little of how this has affected me. This is in the hopes that if you are also unsure about your actions or feelings, you can take small comfort in knowing that you may not be alone.
I fully acknowledge that this post will have limited relevance to those grieving the deaths of loved ones, and I am so, so sorry for what you are going through. What you hold is heavier than I can fathom. The dignity in the Muslim community’s response to this event says volumes about the peace and centrality of faith to your lives.
This is more for those who are grieving those they know peripherally, those who feel the devastation collectively, or those who, due to our privilege, are now facing a new “normal” that minorities have been living with and speaking out about for a very, very long time.
Here’s what has happened to me.
- I cannot concentrate. My productivity this week has plummeted.
- I am craving comfort food – salty carbs and sweet treats. More than usual, I mean.
- In my spare time, I need to keep my hands and mind busy. Reading and running don’t switch me off like they usually do.
- I have to restrict my time online and on my phone. It’s well-known that being constantly updated with new stories has a retraumatising effect. RNZ’s punchy news bulletin has been a reprieve from the graphic images of grief and sorrow.
- Social engagements are now that much harder, or that much more necessary… It depends on the hour how I feel.
- I don’t know how to start an email or conversation, because I’m unsure how this person may have been affected, and whether they will want to talk about it. I am sometimes unsure if I want to talk about it either.
- Certain moments take me back to the realisation of the magnitude of this attack. For me, it was yesterday when I was walking to a meeting in central Christchurch. The ambulance drove past, its windows decorated with ‘Kia Kaha, Ōtautahi ’, the crying Kiwi I’ve posted above, and various slogans of support. When the vehicle turned the corner, written humbly on the back windows were the words, ‘Here for you, no matter what’. After everything those ambulance drivers have been through, those words took my breath away and left me in tears on the footpath outside a Honda dealership.
I’m a mess of contradictions. I know the helicopters and police patrolling the streets are there to keep us all safe. Why do they seem to make me more nervous?
The makeshift memorial of flowers outside Hagley Park is a safe, public space to gather and grieve together; I’m really thankful for that. It’s also a strange, bustling cacophony of dog-walkers, tourists, friends catching up and news readers doing live crosses being beamed all around the world. I found it both important for my own healing process to visit, and totally bizarre and unsettling.
The overwhelming urge to do something to help the victims and their wider faith community has also been sharply brought in to line by my ignorance about Muslim beliefs, traditions and way of life. How blind have I been to the racism in this country? As Saziah writes, “We must reject the notion that “this is not us”, because it is. White supremacy has always been a part of New Zealand.” I have privilege to examine and questions to ask myself.
I offer these thoughts as a small way for others to know that it’s OK for your resilience to be lower, your stress to be higher, and for you to be acting differently than normal in the wake of what’s happened. In sharing our own experiences, I hope we can empathise with each other’s grieving, and be gentler and kinder to each other.
Here are some Muslim voices sharing their stories that we need to listen to: