Like many others around the world we at the Haas Institute are horrified at the news that dozens of Muslim worshippers were gunned down by a white supremacist inside two of their mosques during Friday prayers in a normally quiet region of New Zealand—a country that is home to many immigrants, refugees, and people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds who presented the world with a model for peaceful co-existence.
We offer our deepest sympathies to the victims' relatives, and stand in solidarity with Muslims around the world who are living in constant fear that they too could be targeted for no reason but their faiths.
The massacres carried out at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch constitute an attack not just against the Muslim communities and immigrants of that small island nation, but against our deeper, humanist values of love, compassion, and care for one another which must be made explicit in the face of such acts.
We are encouraged by the words of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who assured her country's people that "we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not, and cannot, be shaken by this attack."
Immigrants and refugees, she later said, "have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us." In other words, they belong.
The question then becomes, now what? We can continue to condemn and to offer thoughts and prayers after such attacks motivated by hate, racism, and Islamophobia. But that doesn't bring us any closer to solving what we at the Haas Institute see as a worsening crisis unfolding all over the world with the increase of right-wing extremism.
A few months ago, in the wake of the massacre carried out by a white supremacist at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, our director john powell called for a day of national dialogue where we could take a break from our work and school and critically examine our trajectory as a country in which hate crimes and mass shootings are becoming a norm.
Friday's attack in Christchurch is a reminder that such dialogue and bridging are needed not just in our country, but internationally as well, for all people to reflect on the social anxieties and fears impacting countries all over the world. As we've been witnessing in far too many instances such anxieties, when not addressed, can lead to devastating consequences.
One way to organize this could be through an international body such as the United Nations to create a commission on hate. Such a commission could investigate the proliferation of hate crimes and right-wing extremism around world, and work with communities to remedy this through dialogue and other programs that underline our shared humanity.
There may not be a one-size-fits-all fix to the many social problems threatening to destabilize communities far and near that are trying to co-exist peacefully. But as a basis we encourage everyone to think more deeply, more consciously, and deliberately on what societies and institutions can do, concretely, to stem the tide of hate, and create conditions that foster compassion, empathy, and understanding.