Today, along with thousands of other non-Muslim Australians, Julie and I visited the mosque nearest to us (in Preston) to show our solidarity and express our sympathy.
When we arrived, we were delighted to see long lines of visitors’ shoes, a swathe of flowers and hundreds of mostly white Australians walking barefoot through the mosque.
Some were silent and thoughtful, others were talking to individual worshippers. All in their own way expressing their horror of the Christchurch massacre and their solidarity with the worshippers as fellow Australians.
Most of us had never been inside a mosque before and would have been rather self-conscious talking to Moslems we didn’t know. Now that barrier has dissolved and people of both sides felt the warm glow of finding new friends.
Julie approached one youngish woman in a veil, standing at the entrance to the women’s prayer room. They chatted about Christchurch for a few minutes, then Julie asked her if she experienced intimidation or racism in her day to day life. The woman went quiet and looked uncomfortable. Then she said quietly “On public transport”. Julie apologised and said that maybe this will change because of this catastrophe (not entirely believing it).
That’s because it’s up to us to stop it if we can. If we are brave enough. I have heard of a low-stress way to help stop abuse on trams, buses, etc. If someone is being abused, ask them if they would like to come and sit with you. Often most of the other passengers will make room for them and form a barrier to further abuse. There’s strength in numbers. It’s worth a try.
Perhaps the only good thing that will come of this massacre will be an improved relationship and acceptance between our peoples, the exact reverse of the perverse thinking that triggered this terrible crime.
I know Julie and I do.