a unanimity of kindness, a plurality of beliefs: a migrant’s lesson from Christchurch

those who made the supreme sacrifice in the name of religious freedom.

I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it. – attributed to Voltaire.

SPENT A few weeks back home in the Philippines, so I’m getting used to looking right (instead of left) before crossing the street again. Also getting used to the weather, speaking in Kiwi English instead of Taglish (Tagalog + English), not putting tuyo (dried fish) in the office microwave or anything strong smelling like that.

But New Zealand is also back to a little getting-used-to me, your kabayan. My infectious smile, laughter and tendency to get in the middle of your daily goodmorninghellohowareyou with my concern for your daily life and issues. My funny accent and way of saying things. Generally, my being Asian, my being Filipino and admittedly my being sensitive both ways (positively and negatively).

It’s no big deal. New Zealand is famous for its tolerant, welcoming mood as regards visitors, guest workers and migrants, opening its doors to those running away from war, poverty and persecution. It may not be as much as others in the first world, but NZ punches above its weight, for its size and population, when it comes to admitting migrants refugees and people who most need the help from the cruelties of modern history.

At least, this is what I’ve seen and I’ve known. I’ve learned to trust in the warm and welcoming nature of both New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Until the middle of March, when a gunman opened fire in two Mosques in Christchurch, in what the New Zealand news media has called the Christchurch shootings, but what should more properly known as the Christchurch massacre.

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Despite the horror and bloodshed that took place, my perception of New Zealand hasn’t changed. Most of the country is rightfully outraged and horrified that such a thing could happen here, maybe naively believing that it would never happen, but still hoping that it’s a “one-off”, meaning an isolated incident that is not indicative of things to come.

Out of every 1,000 New Zealanders believing and doing the right thing, I have to admit there are one or two who believe it was something that was bound to happen, and is a reflection of the multitudes of opinions and beliefs that are part of the environment of a free and democratic society that is New Zealand.

This is the reality that not only migrants like myself but everyone must live with in one of the most open, freedom-loving and pluralistic countries in the world where all values are respected, or at least allowed to co-exist.

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Migrants, as much as anyone, must accept the reality that in New Zealand, we accept the good with the bad. Everyone (within reason) must be allowed to live according to what they believe is right, just and moral. It’s part of the deal when you live here.

Initially we are the outsiders, welcomed into the fold of a hospitable host country where eventually we become part of the family. In that family, there are ideal, average, good, objectionable, and downright bad. We may or may not like all our family members, but that is what they are : family. The family of New Zealanders.

More than anything else, this is the lesson I have taken out from the Christchurch shootings. New Zealand, yes, is the land of the free. But freedom means you always need to look to your left and to your right, just so you are aware of who your fellow New Zealanders are.

And if need be, just to be safe, to look behind your back.


6 thoughts on “a unanimity of kindness, a plurality of beliefs: a migrant’s lesson from Christchurch

  1. Well, I haven’t been to your posts for a while, but today seeing you liked one of mine, I thought it was time to come over again. And I’m glad i did. This is a great post and I’m sorry I missed it. BTW. How can i subscribe?

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