The shooting in two mosques at Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15 that resulted in the death of 49 innocent persons is the symptom of an alarming epidemic that is being spread all over the world, the epidemic of hatred. Responding to the appalling incident, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days; this is a well planned terrorist attack." In a message widely circulated in the media she said, "We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. And amongst that diversity we share common values. And the one that we place the currency on right now is our compassion and support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy. And secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this. You may have chosen us – we utterly reject and condemn you."
The main culprit behind the horrific crime is 28 year old Australian, Brenton Tarrant, a white supremacist. From his Facebook post it is evident that the killer was motivated by racism, Islamophobia and hatred against immigrants. The brutal shootings were previewed on an infamous internet message board and then graphically live-streamed on Facebook. A 74 page manifesto, found by authorities after it was posted online, was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas. The purpose of live-streaming the act of terror is to terrorise people and to inspire those attracted to such violent ideas.
The Chronicle editorial board in its comment on March 15 under the title, “How the New Zealand mass shootings are America’s responsibility, too” wrote that the gunman was inspired by various aspects of the xenophobic and destructive climate in the United States as well. According to the Chronicle the murderer praised US President Donald Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011. The dossier stated objections to immigration and multiculturalism, and decries the "decaying" culture of the white, European, Western world.
The Chronicle editorial expressed serious concern on the ease with which his attack spread across the social media platform. “The failure of social media giants to make a serious and concerted effort against hate on their platforms isn’t just disappointing — increasingly, it’s deadly,” the editorial added.
The response of the people of New Zealand to the horror was consoling and reassuring. In the streets around the Al Noor mosque, where at least 41 people died, New Zealanders have left flowers and messages of support for the victims and their families. "We all are one, we all are with you," one heart-shaped card said. "This is not New Zealand," another large message read. "The hatred has spread everywhere, so the time has come to stop this and treat everyone as a human being.” “No one is born with their choice in religion. We don't choose religion; God puts us in that religion.”
New Zealand Prime Minister was not only quick to dub the attack as an act of terrorism, but also she visited a Christchurch refugee centre to deliver a message of unity to the country's Islamic community. “You were quick to mention this is not the New Zealand that you know. I want to reaffirm that today. This is not New Zealand,” she told Muslim leaders. She also assured the people that there would be change in the gun laws.
It is also encouraging to note that the members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack. The Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
It is a frightening phenomenon that in nation after nation a growing number of people are voting for leaders who stoke hatred against minorities and other oppressed groups, advocate exclusionary nationalism and belligerent militarism against other nations. The right wing political parties who advocate hatred against minorities and migrants are increasing their political support base in many countries. Fighting global terrorism is one of their stated priorities. It is a contradiction that these political parties and leaders promise to root out terrorism and at the same time they encourage hatred and revenge against certain groups by their provocative statements and hate filled actions. In fact hatred is the root cause of terrorism.
In India the Bharatiya Janata Party under the leadership of Narendra Modi came to power promising Sabka Saat Sabka Vikas (With the support of all development of all). But many studies show that there was phenomenal increase in hate crimes against certain religious and caste groups during the Modi regime. According to the data furnished by the Home Ministry itself, there has been a 28% increase in the instances of communal violence between 2014 and 2017. In 2015, 751 incidents of hate crime were reported. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to condemn the terror attack in New Zealand. He tweeted, “hatred and violence have no place in diverse and democratic countries”. But the same Prime Minister kept mum at home when violence was unleashed on the Muslims by the Hindu extremist groups in the name of cow and love jihad.
“Various reports by the media show that ever since PM Narendra Modi assumed power, there has been a sharp increase in the religious hate crimes in the country. According to the data put together by Hate Crime Watch, 274 incidents of hate crimes were reported between 2009 and 2018, and 59 per cent of the victims in these incidents were Muslims, while 57 per cent of the perpetrators were Hindus. Twenty-eight per cent of these incidents were in the name of cow protection, and 90 per cent of these religious hate crimes since 2009 have occurred after Modi led the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014”. (Modi’s Bharat and Development of Hindutva in NEWS CLICK on December 2018)
When the government of India announced that 300 terrorists and trainees were killed in the surgical strike at the terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan some organizations in India celebrated it as India’s victory and a kind of hysteria was noticed among the people who entertain hatred against Pakistan and Muslims. While it is to be appreciated that the armed forces performed their duty effectively, there is no reason for celebration when human beings are killed.
The preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO declares that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defences of peace must be constructed.” History is a witness to the fact that hatred and the desire to take revenge is one of the most important reasons for war. Terrorism is a kind of war in a limited space and innocent people are the victims of terrorism. Therefore the urgent need today is to cleanse human minds of hatred and revenge. It is very unfortunate that some organizations wedded to exclusivist ideologies pollute the minds of children with prejudice and hatred against certain communities. India is not an exception to this dangerous and disastrous phenomenon.
Along with campaign to root out hatred and revenge from the minds of human beings at all levels, special attention is to be paid to the education of children and young people. They are to be taught about the need for accepting and appreciating differences in race, religion, language and culture and respect all human being irrespective of gender, colour, national or ethnic or religious identities. Another core value the children have to imbibe is forgiveness and reconciliation.
Universal Solidarity Movement (USM), Indore in its one week Enlightened Leadership Training for High School students focuses on two core values along with competence building of the participants. These two core values are pluralism and forgiveness. One of the Five Paths of Self Transformation promoted by USM is praying daily for peace and forgiveness. During the sessions the students are shown illustrious examples of forgiveness. Sonia Gandhi’s request to the President of India to commute the death sentence of Nalini, one of the four convicted for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, to life imprisonment is an excellent example for forgiveness. Her argument was that no child should be orphaned by an act of the state. Another example is the act unconditional forgiveness by Gladys Stains, the wife Graham Stains, an Australian missionary who along with two of their children were burnt to death in a jeep by some Hindu extremist groups while they were sleeping.
Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jn. and Nelson Mandela are shining examples of unconditional forgiveness. All of them were highly influenced by Jesus’ teaching on unconditional forgiveness. Gandhiji literally practiced what Jesus taught, “Love your enemies”. He opposed tooth and nail the policies of British government, but he had no iota of hatred towards British people. Unfortunately, many young minds are polluted by social media against Mahatma Gandhi. He is presented by certain fanatic groups as a villain who was responsible for the partition of India. During the one week training the students are shown the movie ‘Gandhi’ produced by Richard Attenborough with commentary, followed by discussion. At the end of the training the students admit that ‘Gandhi’ was the most influencing on their lives out of the five movies shown to them during the seven days’ training. The core values they imbibed from Mahatma Gandhi are non-violence, truthfulness, readiness to forgive and commitment to pluralism.
Promotion of Gandhian values is one of the best means to root out hatred and revenge from the minds of people. In response to the appeal made by USM in the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba many schools have shown the movie ‘Gandhi’ to the students and motivated students to buy and read the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, My Experiments with Truth.
Forgiveness and reconciliation along with pluralism (acceptance, appreciation and celebration of differences) have the power to change the atmosphere of hatred and revenge into peace and harmony and that is the need of the hour. If all peace loving people, especially religious leaders and teachers, focus on promoting these core values, terrorism can be rooted out, peace can be established and this world will be a better place to live.
“Peace is reverence for life.
Peace is the most precious possession of humanity.
Peace is more than the end of armed conflict.
Peace is a mode of behaviour.
Peace is a deep-rooted commitment to the principles of liberty, justice, equality and solidarity among all human beings.
Peace is also a harmonious partnership of humankind with the environment.
Today, on the eve of the twenty-first century, peace is within our reach”.
Yamoussoukro Declaration of UNESCO
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 25th March 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 13)