We join the world in mourning the 49 (so far reported) lives lost in the horrific Christchurch (New Zealand) massacre of Muslim devotees who were offering their Friday prayers. As the story develops we have learnt that at least two individuals of Bangladeshi origin have died in the attack with three missing; we offer our heartfelt condolences to their families along with those of all the victims of this meaningless act of terror. We are relieved that our national cricket team narrowly escaped the attack.
It has been heartening to see the sensitivity and compassion shown by New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who has described this as the country's “darkest hour” and has rejected firmly the “extremist ideology” which she said had no place in New Zealand's society. Such a strong message has no doubt given some solace to the Muslim community in New Zealand which is in a state of shock and unease. Many of New Zealand's non-Muslim have shown solidarity for the Muslim community. Revising gun laws as the New Zealand's authorities have stated they will do, is definitely a step to prevent such mass murders and this should be emulated by other countries like the US, a country with one of the highest number of shooting deaths in the world. As we have seen, ideology that breeds hatred of those perceived to be different knows no logic and can often spread as it appeals to other like-minded individuals or groups with twisted minds. It is reassuring that the main culprit, a self-proclaimed “saviour” of the white race, has been apprehended although it is not known whether he has any accomplices. Thus it is crucial that the authorities of New Zealand and the region remain extra vigilant of other such attacks by extremists who have a pathological hatred of immigrants, especially Muslims. We hope the authorities will take extra precaution to provide security to the Muslim communities in these countries.
Ultimately, however, governments of all countries that have immigrant populations have to make concerted efforts to remove the mistrust and antagonism between communities they govern. Acceptance of all faiths, colour and races, compassion for those who have taken refuge in the land and acknowledgment that they are all equal human beings—these are values that have to be reiterated through dialogue, education, social campaigning and changes in policy. Defusing and shunning extremist ideology—no matter where it is coming from—is the only way to prevent these mindless acts of terror.