CSP-AP Alumna Shares Videos of Vigil Services in New Zealand

The Press, a daily newspaper published in Christchurch, New Zealand, lists the names of the 50 people killed in the mosque attacks in the March 22nd issue.

The Press, a daily newspaper published in Christchurch, New Zealand, lists the names of the 50 people killed in the mosque attacks in the March 22nd issue.

Today lawmakers in New Zealand voted 119-1 in favor of the first phase of a new bill outlining gun law restrictions in the country. This would ban military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, high capacity magazines and gun parts used to execute a massacre of 50 people in two Christchurch mosques in March.

According to TIME, Police Minister Stuart Nash describes the swift action of parliamentarians as necessary to curb access to weapons used to enact violence and to ensure the public safety of all persons in New Zealand: “We are also driven by the memory of 50 men, women and children who were taken from their loved ones on the 15th of March. Their memory is our responsibility. We don’t ever want to see an attack like this in our country again.”

In this moment, conversations about white supremacist violence, free speech, gun rights, colonization and Islamophobia are amplified and hotly contested - not only in New Zealand but also in the U.S. and across the world. It is clear from these dialogues that new inroads are also building towards empathetic consciousness, deep listening, and heart-led solidarity across social divides. During the National Remembrance Service on March 28th in Christchurch, survivor Farid Ahmed who lost his wife in the attack, told more than 20,000 people gathered about how he is processing this experience: “People ask me, 'Why did you forgive someone who has killed your beloved wife? I don't want a heart that is boiling like a volcano, a volcano has anger, fury, rage, it does not have peace. I want a heart that will be full of love and care and full of mercy. Probably he has gone through suffering in his life and he could not process the suffering in a constructive way. I do not support his wrongdoing. I cannot deny the fact that he is my human brother."

Peacebuilding is also what forms the lasting fellowship between alumni of the 2018-19 Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau (CSP-AP) and moves expressions of care and concern shared with two alumna from New Zealand. The 24 scholars (from 17 countries) daily exchange news updates, encouragement, resource opportunities, and stories with one another through multiple media channels - WhatsApp chat groups, Skype, social media, email and mobile texting - affirming and uplifting one another through experiences of joy, hope, pain and struggle.

Elzanne Bester is one of the New Zealand alumna of CSP-AP. She is a graduate student and teaching assistant in International Affairs at the University of Auckland in New Zealand who has kept her cohort up-to-date with context-specific perspectives and videos on what was happened in the country following the mosque attacks.

Our country has really stood up and shown support for Muslim communities, as New Zealanders. I took part in a faculty memorial service followed by a vigil where we stood in solidarity with Muslim persons and participated in their morning prayers. I also attended a city-wide vigil where we heard from different speakers representing Islamic, Maori, and Pakeha communities who shared their perspectives. We are all united by the grieving and mourning process. This is our call to action.

In this difficult moment, Elzanne shares this about the bond with her fellow Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau scholars:

CSP-AP has brought us many things - family, opportunities, skills, attitudes, confidence, reignited ambition, humility, passion, faith and peace. It has added fierce pride and positivity in my life. It’s as though listening to our inner voice has helped us gain an understanding of our path and enabled us to find the path amongst the myriad of obstacles and diversions. The support networks we have formed are ready to catch us when we fall.