We awoke with a deep sense of sadness, mourning, and grief at the news of the horrific shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters as they mourn the loss of so many beloved family and community members. We pray for all of the victims, their families, and their communities.
This tragedy will impact the safety and security felt by Muslims not just in New Zealand but around the world. We support the right of all people of all faiths to worship without the threat or fear of violence or retribution. Mosques are holy spaces, and this evil act has damaged the sanctuary and security of those holy spaces. We lament that there are millions of Muslims around the world who are now questioning whether to go to prayers in the wake of this shooting. Attacking people of faith in their holy spaces is one of the most unconscionable acts imaginable.
Unfortunately, holy spaces have become an increasingly common target for white supremacists. We are still learning about the motivations behind this shooting, but what is clear already is that the main perpetrator of this shooting was motivated by hatred. The shooter was motivated by white supremacist, nationalist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic ideologies— the same motivations behind the tragedies here in the United States at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn.
These atrocities share the same evil root — the belief that some humans are not made in the image of God. This belief is being espoused in hate speech and hateful rhetoric by white supremacists around the world at every level of society including those in political power. America has become an outsourcer of this vile and sinful hate speech, and the worst legacies of our own original sin now motivate and inspire this kind of atrocity in other parts of the world.
In addition to hateful rhetoric, America is also outsourcing an unholy love of guns. New Zealand has stricter gun laws than the United States but far less restrictive than countries like neighboring Australia. As we write this, there are 49 confirmed deaths from this shooting — one more than the total number of homicides that occurred in New Zealand in 2017 (the latest years statistics are available for). It is clear that access to guns only emboldens and increases the chances of a tragedy like this. We encourage leaders in New Zealand to revisit these laws and serve as an example to the United States for how to respond to tragedies like this with appropriate legislation.
But today we mourn and grieve the loss of so many innocent lives that have been cut short by hate. To all of our Muslim friends and family, we are praying for and with you and are at the ready to stand beside you in the coming days and weeks.
Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
Adam Taylor, Executive Director, Sojourners