I want to talk a little about commemoration and celebration
March the 15th is a very significant day for my family as it it is for us all in New Zealand.
But for us it is primarily because March the 15th is the birthday of my youngest son Ben. Born at 2.05 in the morning on a day that featured a brilliant blue sky in 1999.
I called him in Wellington last year to wish him a happy birthday and we both felt the low ache of the tragedy underneath our happy words of celebration. He said that forever more his birthday and New Zealand’s tragedy will be linked and I said it’s just a day mate. We celebrate you every day of your life. But the Christchurch massacre is frozen in time.
So this year Ben is 21. Last night we had a party. It was magnificent. Our first function in our new house. The house full of young and old actively talking and chatting and our home was full of laughter. It was a celebration .
But at one point I stopped and looked around the room and did a quick head count. There were around 50 people and I thought that this mass of humanity in my house was the same size of the mass of humanity in God’s house that was so viciously cut down a year ago.
But it was not just 51 killed, but 49 injured, and the effects of those injuries linger on and will linger on forever.
It’s very sobering. The sheer number. The immense effect that it has on that small community.
So we now know, if we didn’t already, that the Islamic community don’t really do commemoration.
As I understand it the reasons are that firstly the victims are in paradise. But it’s also about keeping the central tenets of the faith going. The feeling of love and hope and the community of the living. It’s a way of moving forward. It’s a form of mindfulness.
Once I got my head around it, I was moved and impressed. The community affected don’t need a day to commemorate because they commemorate and celebrate the fallen every day.
It’s almost karmic the way the virus has now shut down the scheduled commemorations which was the Muslim community’s preference. Another of God’s little jokes.
But to the Islamic community, I make this promise. We will never forget. We will always remember the terrible insult dealt to you. We will commemorate it to keep the memory alive for those who come later. And we will celebrate your incredible strength, forgiveness and love.