- Koreen Liew-Young
Updated: Sep 18, 2021
On this day my son turned four. He was going to have a Captain America party with the family that day and was so excited.
Oblivious to him, it was also the day that many people from the Muslim community (here in New Zealand and abroad) lost their lives, lost the loved ones. From this day, their lives will never be the same.
I was in so much mixed emotion afterwards. So much sadness, and so much anger and we saw hearts breaking on social media as Kiwis all across the country pour out our love and support. Some might say that this tragedy happened to all New Zealanders....but I disagree. It happened in Christchurch, and more precisely, we cannot deny that they had a specific target. The target was the Muslim community, and honestly...there is no way that we can truly empathise.
One way we can empathise is by hearing people's stories. I was really touched as I watching a video and thankful that Waleed Aly spoke up, even though it was the last thing he wanted to do. I respect his reflection, so much more than anything that I've read / watched in the last few days from other reporters. Because during those four minutes, we are given a glimpse of what it's like to walk in his shoes and we are challenged on how we are going to respond to the comments and people around us in the future.
And I started to see these pictures going up on social media and billboards around Auckland e.g. New Zealand flags in a tear drop but I felt these pictures were too generic. Not saying these people didn't have good intentions, of course they did. But there was only one that really depicted what was truly on point by Ruby Alice Rose showing a Muslim woman being embraced by another with the caption, "This is your home and you should have been safe here." It is a beautiful piece.
So I wanted to express my love and support as well and drew an illustration acknowledge the pain the Muslim community are now going through and that we as New Zealanders are crying with them, standing with them without taking the focus away from them.
In it I drew a Muslim woman covered in a Niqāb.
The Niqāb has a silver fern pattern showing that all Muslim people are New Zealanders, whether they have arrived recently as refugees or immigrants, or come a long time ago. It shouldn't matter what time a person has spent in New Zealand to qualify as a New Zealander. All ethnicities need to be treated with love and respect.
Behind the woman are some koru (loop or coil) growing making a heart shape. The Koru is a Māori symbol of rebirth, life, strength and peace in hope that one day we can all continue on united together in love.
Within the koru are the names of the known people who died or were missing as of 16/03/19. They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children and grandparents and I wanted to name every individual that I could find, to show that these people were individuals with stories of their own. I wanted to honour them as individuals, not as generic people group.
Also in the background is pikorua (twist) which symbolises the strong bond of loyalty between two two people. In this instance the Muslim community and other New Zealanders. The pikorua is repeated in a pattern in lines to show us united supporting each other and standing strong.
So today we took a minutes silence in church, had a sensitive conversation and had the opportunity to make a donation direct to the Muslim community in Christchurch. I then had a difficult conversation to explain to my now four-year-old that all of this was to show love to the people who were hurting as a result of Fridays events. I told him, "There was a bad thing that happened to the Muslim people on Friday and a bad man went to hurt people. Some people died, and some lost their loved ones. So a lot of people are hurting in New Zealand right now. So we have to show them all love and kindness to help them feel better." He responded "Like a War"? I said "Yes, like a war." And I left it at that. #NoRoomForRacism
Ways you can practically help are donating financially at givealittle, check out The SpinOff's article on How to support New Zealand's Muslim community or attend one of the many vigils held around the country.
Also a friend of mine posted on Facebook a great resource on How to talk to your kids about: Trauma. I certainly would've appreciated reading this before having today's difficult conversation with my son.
Edit 18/03/19: After dropping off my son at kindy on the Monday following- we were advised that nothing would be said about Friday's event as the children are too young to process it. If it does come up they will be focusing on the fact that the children are loved and safe. This parenting thing is so hard knowing what to say in the moment when things come up - from now on I will not mention anything to my son and follow the kindy teacher's advice, trying not to beat myself up about being a bad parent.
Edit 21/03/19: How you can show your support: Tomorrow will be one week on 22/03/19.
In response I'll be supporting a few of the events, the first three are great as you can do these no matter where you are in the world (all times are in NZ time.)
Two minute silence at 1:32pm
NZ Stand Together which means heading down to your local mosque at 12:00pm and forming a human chain of love and support to allow Muslims to pray in peace, with prayers commencing at 1:30pm.
Facebook free for Christchurch for 50 hours ( a BLACKOUT of one hour for each of the victims) at 1:40pm where people will be encouraged to log out of your Facebook account. Facebook was the platform used to live stream the tragic vdeo and shared worldwide more than 1.5 million times. This event has been with the goal of having a positive impact on the future of technology .
Headscarf for Harmony where you're invited to wear a headscarf or head covering at work, school, or play - to peacefully show your support for the Christchurch and wider New Zealand Muslim communities.
Vigil in the Auckland Domain 6:00pm (previously Aotea Centre but too many people RSVPed so they had to move it.)
Edit: I have changed Hijab to Niqāb in the above text. Niqāb is a full face covering.