Opinion: Time for reflection after Christchurch terror attack

  • Opinion
  • 29/03/2019

By Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland

OPINION: Give nothing to racism.

It’s the great line behind the Human Rights Commission’s campaign championed by director and actor Taika Waititi.

It means a lot more in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack.

Unfortunately too many in our community either partake in the odd racist joke having no idea where it can lead. We have people who say nothing when they hear hate speech expressed. It could be that they are too scared to say something. Maybe they’re out numbered. And our entire society, much like other societies, has unconscious bias at almost every level of the workplace, the sports team and the class room.

But we as a community need to start having some honest conversations about what is going on. The conversations may be unpleasant at points but everyone, be they from a majority or a minority, needs the opportunity to talk about their experiences and listen to others. There is a massive difference between hearing a message and listening to a message. I hope we all take the time to listen and learn from each other so we can be a better and stronger society. There can be no more terror attacks fuelled by hate here. As cartoonist Sharon Murdoch pointed out in a recent cartoon – it was not the politically correct culture that went out and murdered 50 people.

Over the past few days I have been thinking about 'a sense of community' and what that means. We all live within some kind of social structure which relies on our ability to relate, interact and communicate to the people around us. However, most of us do not take enough time to connect to a wider group that we call community. I think engagement and tolerance are interlinked, and our incredibly diverse communities would strengthen if people took the time to embrace this. 

This is more of an urban issue than rural – as (if I can generalise here) rural people tend to know their neighbours and those in their immediate vicinity. As a city resident, I felt terrible that during the Christchurch Earthquakes, I did not know the people in my street apart from those immediately next door.Through adversity, our attitudes changed and we engaged more to become more community minded. 

From the terror attack of March 15 it is really clear we do not know enough about the people in our community. There are over 200 ethnicities residing in New Zealand and most of us do not know anything about the cultures, backgrounds, or vulnerabilities for many of them. 

It shouldn’t take an act of terror to want to reach out and demonstrate that we are one.

Terry Copeland is Federated Farmers chief executive