Open letter to gunman in Christchurch mosque attack

Brenton Tarrant, 29, on Thursday was sentenced to jail for the rest of his life without the prospect of release on 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one charge of terrorism following the March 15, 2019, Christchurch mosque shootings. He admitted all the charges. Photo RNZ

The effects of your actions have not only shocked and horrified the peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand, they have caused particular offence to Maori, the indigenous peoples of this land.

Maori are the traditional kaitiaki or caretakers of this land just as Aboriginal peoples are to your homeland. Maori are entrusted the responsibility of ensuring all who come upon our land are accorded hospitality and freedom to flourish. Your actions were an indescribable abuse of the hospitality you were accorded.

You will have seen, however, that Maori were prominent in responding with unequivocal love toward those you deliberately harmed. Indeed the immediate effect of your unconstrained hatred was that virtually all New Zealanders reached out across the humanly-created divisions of race, religion, gender and class to provide comfort, kindness and solace by way of showing the world that our shared humanity is far more precious than the differences which you are clearly so unable to reconcile.

Your actions have exponentially increased respect and desire for diversity, especially racial and religious diversity to continue to grow and to flourish in this country.

Your stated desire for health, prosperity, autonomy, protection of heritage and culture, rights for workers and a discrimination-free civil society are very much the objectives shared by the world’s recognised faith communities.

It may not have occurred to you that these are many of the hopes of most, if not all, human beings. The faith of the people you attacked is no exception.

Their faith provided workers’ rights, abstention from addictions, protection of culture and an elaborate framework for health and prosperity many hundreds of years ago.

For many of those hundreds of years, these principles have benefitted Christian and other communities.

Today, Christians and Muslims are involved in interfaith and interreligious cooperation, fighting against many things you say you hate, such as abuse of workers, addiction, ethnic oppression. When you said ‘Why won’t somebody do something?’, you simply were not aware of how much is being done already.

Christianity and Islam are inseparably bound by their theological commonalities. The Quran and Bible share remarkably similar stories, lessons and injunctions throughout their pages, using the same personalities, from Adam to Mary, and the miraculous birth of Jesus.

Your actions, being so far from your stated goals, only put you in a well-known class of people distinguished by their exploitation of history and irrational misunderstanding of the world and its people – of how human beings were made by God to live, coexist, and thrive.

Your inability to recognise the human race’s efforts to cooperate, collaborate and coexist across ethnic and religious lines is, fortunately, a relatively rare illness.

Jocelyn Armstrong
Dr Jenny te Paa Daniel
The Religious Diversity Centre Trust