Students from AWS sister school in Christchurch share reactions to Mosque attack

Julia Henning

On March 15 a shooter entered Masjid Al Noor and the Linwood Masjid, both mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 49 people. These attacks were only about two miles away from Annie Wright’s sister school in Christchurch, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, with whom Annie Wright has had an exchange for the past four years. In addition, last year the mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, visited Annie Wright and spoke to our news staff.

Recent participants in the exchange, Rangi Ruru students Jemima Porter and Meredith Seeto, spoke to Inkwell about the aftermath of the shooting.

Inkwell: What is the general feeling in Christchurch and New Zealand at the moment?

MS: At the moment there is generally tension surrounding the shooting, but there has been heaps of love and support circulating the city for those affected.

JP: With everything that has happened, people are scared that a retaliation act could occur or something else has been planned and could occur somewhere else in Christchurch or around the country. The strongest feeling we have at the moment is a sense of support for the Muslim community and for those significantly affected by the attacks. We have attended vigils and marches, raised money through bake sales and donations and collected non-perishable items to help those most in need. Some people have suffered significant trauma with everything that has happened, but with the support our school and wider community gives, everyone is feeling as safe and welcomed as they ever could.

Inkwell: How are people around the city showing support? Are there any expressions of hate?

MS: Students from high schools around Christchurch initiated a movement called “paper chains of love” which involved writing messages of love and support to the victims families and arranging them in chains of love around the city. There haven’t been any noticeable hate messages at all in the city.

JP: He [the shooter] tried to rip our country down like it was paper but what he didn’t realize is that we are all interlinked and always have been, and that we will always be there for each other. Gangs in our town have also taken it on themselves to stand guard in front of the mosques when Friday prayer is on to protect those inside and to make sure that they have their safe, peaceful place of worship back. I haven’t experienced, seen or heard anything hateful apart from rumors (that could well be true – we have no idea) going around that ISIS has told us that they are going to retaliate. That has really scared some people, especially the younger ones in our community.

Inkwell: How has this event changed Christchurch?

MS: This tragic event has deeply affected Christchurch residents because of the number of people closely impacted by the shooting. Christchurch has changed for the better despite the consequences of this awful event, because of the new-found love and support for Muslims in our community.

JP: Christchurch as a city has already gone through so much with the earthquakes that rocked us in 2010-2011, so after that we already had a sense of community overall and helping each other. But since this attack had specifically targeted one community, we all rallied to help them because they are us. They always have been and they always will be. After the attack they must’ve felt so segregated and not a part of our community, but we had to let them know that they were. Nothing that happened was ever fair. More symbols of love are people not of the Muslim faith wearing hijabs in support of them.

Inkwell: How do you feel about the actions being taken by parliament?

MS: The situation was handled very well by the NZ government, and especially by the Prime Minister. Jacinda Ardern spoke with compassion and support following the event and provided love and hope to those affected.

JP: Jacinda has done an amazing job with handling the situation. By her saying that she will never speak his name, she has spoken volumes about the situation. The situation with the gun laws changing also is really good but I wish that it didn’t have to come down to the attack for this to happen.