On a normal March day in Christchurch, NZ an Australian gunman assaulted the peace at two mosques which resulted in the deaths of 51 people and left a community, a city, and two nations in shock and grief. We live in a world where these waves of shock and grief are felt too often from examples of civilian loss at the hand of radicalised thought and violent action. I want to share with you a story about what happened recently when we started asking different questions in the wake of such a tragedy.
‘WHAT CAN I DO?’
At the mercy of grief, it is easy to fall into the cycle of asking: “What can ‘I’ do?” and feeling hopeless at the lack of resources, influence and impact that might be needed to solve the complex issues that converge in these tragic events. Perhaps it was the proximity of Christchurch to our town; perhaps it is the shared history of football and the ANZAC spirit; or perhaps it was the fact that the perpetrator of this senseless violence on our peaceful and close neighbours was ‘Australian’: but this time was different.
There are about 1,900 real estate agents in Christchurch, friends of ours, and we wanted to take some of Australia’s agents over and simply share the grief and be with them, and raise a bit of money to connect the families of the victims with some resources to heal.
We had no idea what was going to happen. There is no rule book or blueprint to see the intent manifest to achieve its objectives.
The conference was held in Christchurch on the 2 May and live streamed to a global audience. Farid Ahmed opened RISE2019.
Ahmed, lost his much-beloved wife, Husna, in the attack. He told the story of how Husna had led a group of children to safety and then was shot dead on re-entering the mosque to assist him to escape in his wheelchair. Despite his unimaginable loss, Ahmed’s message of compassion and forgiveness was profoundly moving.
Ahmed started the day talking about how humans, in their different-ness are like different coloured flowers peacefully enriching the garden they share and he asked us to consider community. The community, like a garden, was made more beautiful by different coloured flowers and they all have a way of being in the garden and having their own beauty uninterrupted by the differences in the flowers next to them.
The upshot of the fundraising from ticket sales, from donations, and from a huge charity auction before lunch meant that in a period of just 48 days, we were able to raise over NZD$150,000 for the families of the victims.