IDYP: Embrace our humanity

Written by Danielle Kerchmar from IDYP.

I was on my way to celebrate a bachelorette party when I heard the news on the radio. March 15th, over 50 people were shot at, and 50 officially gunned down and killed in two separate mosques in Christchurch. I couldn’t believe it - I was shocked! This happened in my country, but not here in New Zealand, surely.

Not quite believing the news, we all sat down to dinner to attempt some celebrations, but no one could stop talking about the news. Just as dinner ended, we were evacuated from Britomart due to a suspicious bag. It started to truly hit us, especially as we heard the conversations of individuals devastated around us.

I’m an expat from the states. We have a mass shooting probably once a month. At some point, I had stopped crying about it or feeling any pain. I had marched. I had contacted my politicians. No change was being made and the shootings continued, so the most you could do was shut down and stop caring.

But Christchurch came up in every conversation I had that night. The country was heartbroken, and most struggled to process that New Zealand was a country where this could happen.

I, on the other hand, began to feel thankful and at peace.

I was and still am heartbroken. I love New Zealand - how dare this violence touch this lovely country?!

But I am also thankful....

Thankful to be in a country where everyone took this so personally. Thankful to be in a country where the loss of human life still feels like a heartbreaking tragedy worth a tear. Thankful for the humanity of the reporting, and the media’s plea to stop sharing inhumane footage that was released. Thankful to be somewhere where the entire country hasn’t lost their humanity or kindness to others.

I’ve thought this before Friday’s events. It’s a mindset I see demonstrated regularly in my international development work. I have the opportunity to work with a range of nationals and overseas partners, and New Zealand workers are consistently lauded for their ability to connect, partner with, and genuine desire to do the best they can for the populations they work with first and foremost before any other M&E, reporting, funding, and other pressures. This ability to connect is deeply intertwined with the ability to feel, be humane, and remember that the source of everything is people.

And so, in the midst of the heartbreak caused by the horrendous acts, I hope our community can feel some glint of hope that the pain is a reflection of our ability to feel and continue to embrace our humanity. Our ability to feel ultimately makes us better at serving the populations that most need our help. I hope the media (and also the wider community in general) will continue to embrace their critical role in ensuring that the "victim/s" and Muslim community are centered in the dialogue over the next few months. We cannot erase their experience of a hate crime, which can often happen in reporting. It is important that our entire community continues to uplift and centre them.

I leave you with my favorite Maori proverb, and wish everyone some semblance of peace in the upcoming week:
“He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata”

“What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.”