Bishop of Ripon: My prayers for my friends in New Zealand - and our Muslim sisters and brothers

The Bishop of Ripon, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, previously served in new Zealand.
The Bishop of Ripon, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, previously served in new Zealand.
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‘NAU te rourou, naku te rourou, ka ora ta manuhiri’ (‘With your food basket and my food basket, the people will thrive).

This Maori proverb sums up a key aspect of New Zealand culture: different people coming together, each playing their part to help build stronger communities.

Ambulance staff help a victim of the mass killings in Christchurch.

Ambulance staff help a victim of the mass killings in Christchurch.

I lived and worked in New Zealand from 2012 until the end of 2017 when we returned home to North Yorkshire.

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I’ve been struck here how that mark of generous hospitality is very much a feature of our diverse rural communities.

These are basic human traits: welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, tend to the weak.

This morning I, like so many others, awoke to the horrific scenes from Christchurch, a city that has made news headlines in recent years with the devastation caused by the earthquakes.

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New Zealand is a small country; everyone knows one another, or at least the proverbial six or seven degrees of separation feels at times more like one degree, or no degrees at all.

So the impact of this horror will be felt far and wide, with shock and disbelief prominently voiced on many a social media timeline.

A close friend of mine in Auckland messaged me to say her brother (who is an emergency doctor) had been flown to Christchurch to assist with those injured. I contacted the Anglican Bishop of Christchurch Peter Carrell, who has only been in post for a matter of weeks.

His response was to stress the importance of a united response from church leaders working closely with Muslim and other faith leaders to show solidarity and support.

A nation should never be defined by hatred and fear, rather more by peace and justice. New Zealand, for all its tendency towards the secular, holds dear its reputation for fairness and tolerance; each person having an opportunity to flourish.

This mass shooting will, I suspect, challenge all of that most deeply, and in the coming days there will be much soul-searching and analysis of how this could have possibly happened.

We know that globally tensions are running high on many fronts. We are hardly immune to extreme views in this nation, particularly at the moment. Identity is always held in the local but forged in relationship to others. So what we can do, and what I will be doing today is making visible my commitment to supporting our Muslim sisters and brothers.

Let love prevail.

The Right Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley is the Bishop of Ripon.