COMMENT:

The nation's grief since 50 Muslim fellow New Zealanders were shot dead at prayer has not been overwhelming - it has been empowering. The country has been flooded not only with sadness, but also with a wave of aroha. As much as anything else, the massacre has shown how eager ordinary individuals are to do good when given opportunity and cause.

Confronted with such horrific evidence of evil, it is important to acknowledge the good that can withstand and overcome it. And this week has seen good triumphant in a thousand ways. In their actions and words, the people of New Zealand – and others around the world - have denied the killer his victory.

Some of these actions have been on a grand, heroic scale, some have been small, the equivalent of the widow's mite, praised by Jesus because it was all she could afford to give. Instead of being engulfed in darkness, the country has lit up with hope and love. And heroes have emerged, often to their own surprise.

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When the killer's name is forgotten, who will we remember?

Those who died, innocent victims whose deaths will hopefully become a milestone on the road to tolerance and brotherhood.

The families of the slain, who have borne such grief as you would not think could be borne, but did not act out their suffering and anger.

The other families who will most closely identify with them – those of the entire Muslim community.

Worshipper Naeem Rashid, who charged the shooter during his rampage, tried to take his gun from him and died in hospital of his wounds.

Naeem Rashid sacrificed himself trying to disarm the terrorist that opened fire on worshippers in Christchurch. He is honoured in a mural in Auckland. Photo / Paul X Walsh
Naeem Rashid sacrificed himself trying to disarm the terrorist that opened fire on worshippers in Christchurch. He is honoured in a mural in Auckland. Photo / Paul X Walsh

Worshipper Abdul Aziz who went for the killer with an Eftpos machine and threw a discarded rifle through his car window, smashing it.

The two police officers who drove their car into the shooter's, bringing his rampage to an end.

Masjid Al Noor Mosque neighbour Len Peneha, who pulled five people over his fence to safety when the shooting started.

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Lance Bradford, who came upon the scene and loaded two injured people he found there into his ute and drove them to hospital.

The police and other first responders, whose skilled actions for certain stopped the death toll being higher.

All the other people who acted automatically, bravely and anonymously during and after the shooting – some of whose actions will never be more widely known but all of whom made a difference.

Dr Mustafa Farouk acknowledges the
Dr Mustafa Farouk acknowledges the "tremendous outpouring of love". Photo / Mark Mitchell

Federation of Islamic Associations NZ head Dr Mustafa Farouk, who said all the killer has achieved "is to increase the love and the feeling we have for our own country and we have also seen the tremendous outpouring of love, what we call aroha here in New Zealand".

Christchurch taxi drivers who gave free rides to people arriving at the airport to be with loved ones affected by the massacre.

Everyone who turned up at their local mosque on Friday to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters.

Everyone who turned up to any of the vigils or demonstrations against racism held around the country since March 15 to remind ourselves and the world what we really believe in.

Those police, coronial staff, funeral directors and others working tirelessly to meet the competing claims of grieving families and correct procedure to identify bodies and return them to their families as quickly as possible.

Those police on extra duty in public places in following days so people could feel secure going about their daily lives.

All the volunteers on helplines who just listened.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a high school student in Christchurch. Photo / AP
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a high school student in Christchurch. Photo / AP

Every single person in Christchurch, who must be sick to death of being saluted for their indomitable spirit and would just like a normal life. But who also found the strength this week to support the Muslim brothers and sisters they didn't know they had.

The Hunting and Fishing chain for stopping online firearms sales and pre-emptively withdrawing semi-automatic firearms from its shelves.

Everyone who has voluntarily surrendered a weapon to the police.

All those businesses that have taken their advertising off enabling social media.

All those restaurants, barbershops and other small businesses that donated a day's takings or held events to raise funds for victims.

And all those people who had a meal or haircut they didn't need to support them.

Those in the mainstream media for reporting on traumatic events day after day with thoroughness and respect.

Broadcaster Chris Lynch for apologising over an Islamophobic column he wrote last year, where other equally offensive commentators have ducked for cover.

A vigil in Wellington fills Basin Reserve. Photo / Getty Images
A vigil in Wellington fills Basin Reserve. Photo / Getty Images

The congregation of Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, where a far-right killer shot 11 people dead last year, who raised $68,000 in three days in donations for the victims of the attack.

Bloody Eggboy.

The Prime Minister.

People have understandably been looking for somewhere to lay the blame and while that is natural and necessary, it can't be done in a hurry. The killer's motives are crude but complex, and the means by which he was able to carry out his crime will take time to analyse if the right lessons are to be learned.

Culprits beyond the killer himself nominated so far include but aren't limited to: Donald Trump, the city of Christchurch, Australia, social media, our racist underbelly, the security services, political correctness and anti-Turkish sentiment.

It's certainly easier to lay blame than to take responsibility, but it's a lot more useful to take responsibility, because then you have to do something about it.

In time, we will have the answers we need. But what all those named are alleged to have in common is some form of racism. And although the killer attacked a church it appears white supremacy and race hatred, rather than anti-clericalism, was a major motive.

Tributes pour in to local Islamic centres across the country. These outside the Islamic Centre in Kilbirnie in New Zealand's capital, Wellington. Photo / Lucy Bennett
Tributes pour in to local Islamic centres across the country. These outside the Islamic Centre in Kilbirnie in New Zealand's capital, Wellington. Photo / Lucy Bennett

As much as the massacre was a Christchurch event, it was also a global event whose perpetrator chose Christchurch as the stage.

Forest and Bird's Kevin Hague tweeted it right when he said "the enabling racist culture in this case was not a geographic community but rather a dispersed, online one. We have to tackle it everywhere."

And at every level, especially by anyone who has ever turned a blind eye to so-called "casual" racism because it's easier to let a racist remark pass unrebuked than to risk being labelled politically correct.

This is a weed which left untended can grow into a murderous world view. By emphasising a difference between us and them, it leads some people to a belief that one race or religion is better because the others aren't like "us". For some people, it is easier to feel this than it is to rejoice in how wonderfully different humans are.

Fortunately, everyone can be part of the solution. Start by telling that racist you overhear on the bus to shut up.

Social media's role in spreading hateful messages had been widely talked about before March 15. Like any other medium, social media can be put to both good and bad uses. But it would be nothing less than decent, under the circumstances, if its owners tried to do something about the bad.

Flowers and tributes at the Al Huda Mosque in Dunedin. Photo / Dean Purcell
Flowers and tributes at the Al Huda Mosque in Dunedin. Photo / Dean Purcell

If they were candid enough to say they like the money too much, at least we would understand if not support their reluctance. But excuses about their technological inability to prevent the spread of hate-filled material don't wash. If a pair of breasts had been visible in the shooter's widely distributed livestream, it would have been gone in a moment.

And if Christchurch businessman Philip Arps can be charged with distributing offensive material, why can't Mark Zuckerberg or the increasingly publicity-shy owners of Google?

I've never taken seriously the idea that our country could exert sufficient influence to turn the tide on climate change. But the massacre of March 15 could indeed turn out to be our real nuclear-free moment, and this country could lead the way in seeing dangerous and hateful material eradicated from social media.

The world's attention is on us and what happened here. And, with the exception of Turkey's president Recep Erdogan, everyone is on our side.

Our Prime Minister has a legitimate stake to the moral high ground. No international leader is more respected, more widely than Jacinda Ardern. Her integrity, decency and common sense have made her someone who will be taken seriously when she speaks.

The international community is listening. The Prime Minister has it in her reach to ensure that the light that began to shine here this week spreads to illuminate the world.