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Faith Perspective

By ROBIN PALMER - Provided to The Courier-Times

Note from Rev. Rod Smith, pastor at New Castle First Presbyterian Church regarding the following guest column: Rev. Robin Palmer, now of Auckland, New Zealand, and I have been friends since we were teenagers. Here are his reflections on the mass shooting in Christchurch,  New Zealand. He gave me full permission to publish.

Can you imagine what it must be like when the place you hold dear – a place of worship – becomes a killing field? It’s hard to get your head around it – imagine it happening here in our church.

It’s happened in other countries. In the country of my birth, South Africa – in the St James Church massacre in 1993 (25 July) 11 people were killed and 58 wounded. The perpetrators were eventually granted amnesty by the truth and reconciliation commission in 1998. Families of victims and survivors of that shooting have suffered a lot and still do.

It’s happened more recently in Christian churches in Egypt and other North African countries. We don’t think too much about them – it seems too far away.

But here? In this country? It would be like something happening on the South Island far from us – and something down the road if we lived in Christchurch. Unlike the earthquake which shook everyone again and again, a shooting down the road would have sounded like fireworks and maybe someone else’s problem.

Except that wounded people were running through the neighborhood. A young man asleep – not unusual of course for young people at lunch times some days – was more than slightly surprised to find a wounded man running through his home. He and his friend helped him and applied pressure on the wound and so forth, as you do when a man with a rifle shot wound walks through your house. He called for an ambulance. None came. So the friends took the man to hospital themselves.

You would have heard the stories as the world has – of a 66-year-old woman driving down the road being shot at and helping one wounded man and watching another die – feeling helpless and yet helping a great deal indeed. Other amazing stories abound.

You will hear the concerns about slow response time – about poor intelligence services, about innocence and complacency. About who should be held responsible for not picking up on extremists who can post things in advance on social media and not be picked up. You probably now know what a GoPro camera is – so that a shooter can broadcast live what he is doing – like a personal dash camera. You will also probably wonder about people who posted and shared video footage on line of old people, women, children, in a place of worship, being wounded and killed. And you may rightfully wonder if the world has finally gone mad and if people are actually totally depraved after all.

This kind of violence is not new, however. New Zealand has simply been spared it at home thus far. Sadly, we will have to rethink our lax attitudes about all kinds of things from now on.

We extend our love and prayers to all who have lost loved ones or have been injured. And we stand in solidarity with all kiwis who reject violence, hatred and prejudice of any form.

A lot of *kiwis may well be reflecting on their identity today. Many are certainly standing together with the communities of those two Christchurch mosques in a powerful witness of unity as a people. They may well be thinking more about Muslim citizens of this country and the world. Maybe we all will begin to appreciate more that God loves the whole world.

Let’s hope that people who are often prejudiced toward those who are different will pray for them all, and especially pray that those who have been bereaved in Christchurch may be comforted.

May the God who is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) richly bless those who grieve and this nation with his love.

*Kiwi: playful nickname for New Zealanders.

Rev. Robin Palmer is pastor of Browns Bay Presbyterian Church, Auckland, New Zealand.Rev. Robin Palmer, now of Auckland, New Zealand, and I have been friends since we were teenagers. 

Here are his reflections on the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. He gave me full permission to publish:

Can you imagine what it must be like when the place you hold dear – a place of worship – becomes a killing field? It’s hard to get your head around it – imagine it happening here in our church.

It’s happened in other countries. In the country of my birth, South Africa – in the St James Church massacre in 1993 (25 July) 11 people were killed and 58 wounded. The perpetrators were eventually granted amnesty by the truth and reconciliation commission in 1998. Families  of victims and survivors of that shooting have suffered  a lot and still do.

It’s happened more recently in Christian churches in Egypt and other North African countries. We don’t think too much about them – it seems too far away.

But here? In this country? It would be like something happening on the South Island far from us – and something down the road if we lived in Christchurch. Unlike the earthquake which shook everyone again and again, a shooting down the road would have sounded like fireworks and maybe someone else’s problem.

Except that wounded people were running through the neighborhood. A young man asleep – not unusual of course for young people at lunch times some days – was more than slightly surprised to find a wounded man running through his home. He and his friend helped him and applied pressure on the wound and so forth, as you do when a man with a rifle shot wound walks through your house. He called for an ambulance. None came. So the friends took the man to hospital themselves.

You would have heard the stories as the world has – of a 66-year-old woman driving down the road being shot at and helping one wounded man and watching another die – feeling helpless and yet helping a great deal indeed. Other amazing stories abound.

You will hear the concerns about slow response time – about poor intelligence services, about innocence and complacency. About who should be held responsible for not picking up on extremists who can post things in advance on social media and not be picked up. You probably now know what a GoPro camera is – so that a shooter can broadcast live what he is doing – like a personal dash camera. You will also probably wonder about people who posted and shared video footage on line of old people, women, children, in a place of worship, being wounded and killed. And you may rightfully wonder if the world has finally gone mad and if people are actually totally depraved after all.

This kind of violence is not new, however. New Zealand has simply been spared it at home thus far. Sadly, we will have to rethink our lax attitudes about all kinds of things from now on.

We extend our love and prayers to all who have lost loved ones or have been injured. And we stand in solidarity with all kiwis who reject violence, hatred and prejudice of any form.

A lot of kiwis* may well be reflecting on their identity today. Many are certainly standing together with the communities of those two Christchurch mosques in a powerful witness of unity as a people. They may well be thinking more about Muslim citizens of this country and the world. Maybe we all will begin to appreciate more that God loves the whole world.

Let’s hope that people who are often prejudiced toward those who are different will pray for them all, and especially pray that those who have been bereaved in Christchurch may be comforted. May the God who is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) richly bless those who grieve and this nation with his love.

Kiwi - playful nickname for New Zealanders.

Rev. Robin Palmer is pastor of Browns Bay Presbyterian Church, Auckland, New Zealand.