Tragedy struck New Zealand last week when 50 people were killed in a shooting targeted at two Christchurch mosques. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, calls the horrific event a terrorist attack against the Muslim community. As families mourn for their loved ones, 50 more people are still recovering from injuries and trauma.
Although one man is the suspect for these murders, many others are facing charges for keeping or spreading the Facebook Live video that was taken of the shooting on March 15.
In the US, this news brought shock, horror and grief, especially to the Muslim community and other faith communities. Dr. Lodahl, a Theology and World Religions professor at PLNU, says his reaction was filled with “absolute horror and dismay.”
Dr. Jamie Gates, a professor of Sociology at PLNU, describes his initial reaction to the news. “It was a gut-punch.” He immediately asks the question, “What are we doing? What can we do?”
Geographic distance and discrepancies in belief systems may present some difficulty for San Diegans to find a way to support these families during this time. However, Gates says, “In San Diego, we must stand alongside brothers and sisters who feel it much more personally. I think that’s part of loving our neighbors.”
Shane Hoyle, a sophomore at PLNU, says, “it is our duty as neighbors, friends and Christ-followers to be there for others. Their community is our community.”
Across New Zealand, hundreds have gathered to support the Muslim community and remember the victims. Last week, people of cross-religious faiths gathered together in San Diego to pray over the families, according to Gates.
Dr. Samuel Powell, a professor of Theology at PLNU, says, “Christians should be against this sort of violence as a matter of general principle. I think that pastors should mention this from the pulpit and explain why Christians should be concerned about this kind of violence.”
As a faith community, Gates recommends reaching out to Muslim friends, attending memorial services and offering prayer. Gates says, “Ask them what they need. Like you would at your church when you lost somebody to a tragedy. Maybe even organizing a prayer vigil on campus to say, ‘this matters.’”
“Prayer is huge,” says Hoyle. “I mean praying like these are our own children and family members.”
Although terrorism and events such as this are of great concern to the world, the role of faith-based communities includes mourning with Muslim families and friends as well as putting in the effort to help. Dr. Lodahl suggests that PLNU does all that it can to surround Muslim friends with love and compassion. “God’s love protects the vulnerable. So should we.”