On 22 February 2011, around a Tuesday lunchtime, the Earth clenched her fist and shook the bones of Christchurch, tearing down the fragile walls, ripping apart pavements and roads, rending the works of man to dust. In a mere 10 seconds the first main shock wrought havoc and as the dust, the noise and the flying debris settled, 185 people had lost their lives and the once beautiful city lay devastated. The Cathedral was a shell, the television centre had collapsed and twisted wreckage lay everywhere.
But Kiwis are a resilient bunch. They need to be living in a remote land perched atop the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ and when we first visited in 2013 Christchurch was beginning its Phoenix like rise from the ashes. By the time of our second visit in 2016 the scars were still clearly visible but a sense of renewal and rejuvenation was in the air, replacing the bitter tang of destruction and disaster. The city was getting back on its feet.
And then a few days ago, on Friday, 15 March, a lone Australian gunman took it into his head to wreak his own brand of terror and bring darkness once again to the streets of Christchurch. He took longer than the earthquake to inflict pain and suffering in his quest for self glorification but he too brought a city to its knees, his fist curled around a semi-automatic weapon. And the peaceable, friendly, fun loving nation of New Zealand was woken to the evil that mankind can inflict. Was asked, once again, to mourn for innocent lives cruelly cut short.
You can forgive Gaia, our nurturing, wonderful planet, for visiting us with sorrow and loss on occasion, for she was born of elemental fires billions of years ago and is still twisting in her rage. But when the perpetrator is a far right fascist, a Syrian dictator, an Isis fighter, an IRA bomber, it is less easy to forgive. And yet, in Christchurch, that is what some people are willing to do. Not to condone, not to forget, not to understand necessarily, but to forgive the deluded gunman for his actions and even to pray that he may yet atone for what he has done. Because, of course, those prepared to commit evil for their twisted beliefs will never ‘win’. For every atrocity they perpetrate hundreds of thousands more around the world will stand up and say, not in my name. We, the peoples of this world, will stand together with our brothers and sisters, will weep in their sorrow, will hold onto one another as the people of New Zealand are doing now.
And so, after a long flight from the UK, we arrive in Christchurch at the start of our tour of the South Island. A city darkened by the ashes of its past, but also a city filled with light. The light of a life giving sun, the light of a city of hope, the light of Love which shines in the hearts of its citizens, the people of New Zealand and the peoples of the world. For we are one and cannot be divided.
Falling down, Falling down,
Streets and buildings falling down,
Debris lying on the ground,
Falling down, Falling down.
On the ground, On the ground,
Faithful praying on the ground,
Bullets spraying all around,
Falling down, Falling down.
Rising up, Rising up,
Streets and buildings rising up,
Hope returning out of dust,
Rising up, Rising up.
Holding up, Holding up,
People hold each other up,
Tears of sorrow, Prayers of Love,
Holding one another up.