I woke up to a text that said “Did you hear about New Zealand?”
I hadn’t. I went online and saw the news. A mass shooting at two mosques. The terrorist attack took the lives of 50 people, including a 3-year-old child, and injured dozens of others at the mosques in Christchurch, NZ.
My instant reaction was numbness. We see shootings and acts of hatred against minority groups almost daily in the news. But then I thought about where this attack took place. A mosque. A place of prayer. The amount of hatred that it takes to attack a place of prayer struck me. It signifies not only an attack on human beings, but on a specific ideology.
A mosque is a Muslim house of prayer, a place where individuals can connect to a higher power. An act of hatred on any type of house of worship is an attack on all. It raises tensions and affects the entire global community.
Culture and diversity is what makes this planet beautiful. If we did not have differences we would be mirror images of one another instead of unique beings.
Hatred can be ingrained in us from our surroundings from a very young age. It can be hard to combat deep-seated intolerances but do not believe everything you think. Not every thought is golden.
The subject of intolerance has been one that I have connected to deeply since I was a child. And I have come to the conclusion that inclusiveness is the only way to combat this type of hate. It is the sense of divisiveness in our society that is a problem not the congregation of culture. Community is where we lean, not where we should fear violence from extremism.
I took a Conflict Resolution course during my graduate studies and learned about Contact Theory. This theory struck a chord with me then and it still resonates as the answer now. It is about the intermingling of different groups in order to work towards peacebuilding.
Peace is a subject matter that does not get discussed often because many believe it to be unattainable. Theoretically we work towards it with acts of kindness and grassroots efforts that take place every day. Supranational institutions are in place to try and combat intolerance as well. That does not mean that they are perfect, but they are there.
Discourse is one of the most feared courses of action and yet it is the only one. I hope that the international community rallies around one another in the wake of this event and does not do the opposite.
I believe in the outreach of one community to another. Extending olive branches where there otherwise may not have been one. Loving thy neighbor is more than virtuous but necessary for self-love. To hate someone based off of a group identity alone sends so much hate towards yourself internally.
I often talk about Article 19 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (The Right To Freedom of Expression) to the point where I am a broken record, but recently I have begun shifting my attention to Article 18 (Freedom of Thought). The relationship between the two is worthy of it’s own course of instruction. What you think, leads to what you say, which is related to do what you do, i.e. where you end up. This is why I always say that mental health is physical health. What you think is powerful and how you interact with those thoughts is even more important.
At the center of this attack is a series of thoughts that grew so large through hate that 50 people have now been killed. The reality that this began with a thought that was pushed so far to manifest itself through violent extremism is a call to attention for the state of mental health of the global community.
Intolerance and the propagation of hateful ideologies keeps us from advancing as a society. We’ve got the technology of the future without the heart we need in the present to advance. Humanity is not lost in technology, it just resides even greater inside us. It is our responsibility to uphold that end of the bargain as people that we will be that humanity. The New York Times called the attack in New Zealand “A Mass Murder, of and for, The Internet” in response to the shooter streaming the event online and pausing beforehand to say “subscribe to PewDiePie” before entering one of the two mosques he attacked. Whatever the exact reasons for the attack, the man wanted the world to take notice through hate and violence.
Promoting inclusivity is essential for combating intolerance. The gunman’s mentality most likely did not develop overnight but was harbored through the channels of hate that exist in our world. I am saddened by what happened in Christchurch. I live across the globe and my heart is heavy for all of the people’s lives forever changed because of someone’s violent behavior. Inclusivity may not solve all aspects of extremism, but it should battle many obstacles within intolerance.
Food for thought.
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