Day: March 14, 2020

We shared your love and solidarity in Christchurch

One year ago, in the aftermath of the mass shootings inside mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, we partnered with Auburn Seminary’s digital platform Groundswell Movement and collected more than 13,000 messages expressing our shared grief and moral outrage. Thousands of people in the United States and around the world joined together and pledged to stand up for each other and to call out hate in all its forms. This is the story of what happened next.

Dear Friends,

My name is Amy Olrick, and I work with Valarie Kaur and our team at the Revolutionary Love Project. I also live in New Zealand, and today we remember one of the darkest days in this country’s history.

On March 15, 2019, during Friday prayers, a white supremacist gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch. He killed 51 people and injured 49 more. In the wake of the tragedy, thousands of you sent in messages, prayers, and letters of love and solidarity for the Muslim community.

A few months after the shooting, Mustafa Farouk, the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, invited us to a meeting of the Waikato Muslim Association in Hamilton, New Zealand. We compiled the messages into a book, and one Sunday night, I was welcomed into a room crowded with people and invited to speak. I read curiosity on people’s faces, along with understandable wariness. As an American, my presence there was certainly a reminder of the exported hate that had fueled the recent violence.

I told the community members that I was there on behalf of all of us, then I explained our letter project and began reading our collective pledge and some of your personal messages out loud:

To the Muslim families of New Zealand:

We mourn with you in the aftermath of this horrific white supremacist mass shooting and act of terrorism. You are not alone. We stand with you. We weep with you. We will not forget your loved ones. In their name, we pledge to rise up against white supremacy — in our institutions, on our streets, online, in our homes, and in our own hearts.

I mourn and grieve the losses and horrendous tragedy and join you in solidarity to rise up against all forms of hatred and white supremacy.
— Jennifer

An attack on any one of us is an attack on all of us. My deepest sympathies to the affected families & the country of New Zealand.
— Justine

In solidarity of compassion and grief at this time. Offering my commitment to peace making and nonviolence as core community values.
 Tony

As a minority person in America, every day that I live is a fight against racism and white supremacy.
— LaVania

As a Jew and child of Abraham, my heart is broken at the slaughter of my cousins.
— Karen

We are with you.
 Robert

As a Christian, I believe in loving everyone because we are all God’s children. We cannot stand for hatred. Praying for all those touched by this horrible tragedy, and sending love and support.
— Hilary

An attack on one member of the human family is an attack on all. We must stand together in the face of hate and terrorism.
— Claire

From the other side of the globe, heartbroken for the hate that our national leadership foments, standing with you in grieving and solidarity.
— Nancy

I handed the book to Mustafa and closed with these words:

“On one dark day in Christchurch, a gunman blinded by hate sought to steal all of our humanity. Your community’s was a physical taking—he stole the lives of your beloveds. He sought to dehumanize the rest of us by planting seeds of fear and division so deep that he would rip us apart. He, and white supremacists like him, want us to be too scared or silent to act. He wanted us to forget that we belong to each other. That we are always stronger together.

Your community’s leadership, your love, and your steadfastness in the face of this trauma have offered us a different invitation. You have welcomed us in, and by allowing the people of the United States and the world to mourn with you, you have made us all stronger. Thank you for letting us join our heartbreak with your own. If we stand together, hate and violence will never be stronger than revolutionary love. This book is a small part of the love that so many around the world have for you. We hope you will accept as a symbol that will never stop working to create a world in which all of our children can live in peace, without fear.”

The atmosphere of the room changed as I spoke. As I read your messages out loud, I saw wonder and incredulity on people’s faces. In the eyes of the women, I saw tears that matched my own.

Mustafa accepted our book and promised to take it Christchurch and share it with the mosques and communities there. On behalf of FIANZ, he later sent us this message:

Assalamu Alaikum – May Peace be with you.

On behalf of the Muslims of New Zealand, and our national umbrella organization, The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), I wish to thank The Revolutionary Love Project organization and its volunteers and supporters for the 13,000 messages of love and solidarity for Muslim families in New Zealand that you collected and compiled into a book and handed to us almost a year ago.

As we approach the anniversary of the Christchurch shootings and as we make arrangements in major cities of New Zealand to remember the horrendous event and those who were immediately impacted, I just want to take this moment to reach out to those who stood side by side with us during the difficult moment in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. The Revolutionary Love Project organization is one we will never forget.

I want you to know that your messages of aroha are helping the victims in Christchurch with their healing process and will remain forever a reminder that there are overwhelmingly more people in this world that choose love and humanity over hate. Following the Christchurch event, our country experienced strong connectivity between all her various ethnicities and religions, going forward, it is this experience we are trying to strengthen in New Zealand and export to the rest of the world. We hope The Revolutionary Love Project will help us with this goal.

May God Almighty Grant all of you who sent those messages and the rest of us and our communities and countries safety, peace, happiness and prosperity.

Thank you. Yours sincerely,
Dr Mustafa Farouk President FIANZ

 

To all of those who wrote and expressed solidarity—your message was heard and felt, and your voice mattered. My colleagues and I are very grateful to be in this work with you.

In a time of fear and disconnection, may this story offer an example of the connection that is possible across great distances. Together we can find ways to build a world where we see no stranger, transformed by revolutionary love.

In Chardi Kala,
Amy, Valarie, and the Revolutionary Love Project Team