But is it really shocking? Waleed Aly, a reporter for the Project in Australia had this to say about the tragedy in Christchurch “everything we say or do that tears people apart has consequences even if our finger is not on the trigger”.
How often in the solitude of our laptops or the solitude of our phones have we typed out messages of hate or messages that simply hurt others? How often have we liked, shared, watched or just agreed with statements that hurt others, ridiculed them or, like the gunman, shared hate from the heart to the screen and then to the end of a gun.
Have we been complicit in sharing hate when we should instead have shown love, and respect or at the very least indifference? Have we been seduced into thinking that the small micro aggressions we share, like and watch are harmless, victimless crimes that we are never held to account for, until someone like this deranged terrorist smashes the lens we once looked through?
When did being different become a death sentence? When did having a different faith, a different gender, a different point of view make us less than human and open to ridicule, open to slander, and sadly for the Muslim community in Christchurch, open to being killed in our place of worship?
Do we so easy lull ourselves into this idea that my actions do not have reactions, and that when I harm others or contribute to the harm of others that I am also impervious to the blowback that this may bring? As Waleed so aptly pointed out, this is not a shock...yes it is shocking, but for the most part people have been killed because of their faith around the globe - killed because of differing ideas, differing politics, differing opinions. And I wonder, how did we allow ourselves to become so polarised that the world has now become them and us?
That we can no longer sit together and share our ideas, our points of view, our faith, our politics without fear of the messenger being shot, literally, or of the holders of those opinions being bullied and ridiculed in person or online. Gutless cowards these gunmen are and yet, is it not also gutless and cowardly to make hurtful statements online?
And yes, their names should never be repeated and their social media posts taken down and never shown. There should be no oxygen for their propaganda and we should all hold ourselves responsible for what we see, what we hear, what we think, feel and what we do. Because the lens is shattered, and now we must consider how we put this lens back together again.
New Zealand will recover, it will find its course again in this tempest storm that has become so too familiar in other countries of the lone or group of gunmen and acts of absolute and unrestrained terror, but it will never be the same. And for us, spectators as it were to this terrible event, we are left with the responsibility of checking ourselves, checking our hearts, checking our thoughts, our views our attitudes, not just of ourselves but more importantly of others who are different from us.
Because too often we have not been spectators, and in fact we have in our hearts and minds, in the privacy of our screens contributed even in a small way to the cataclysm we see sprawled across the media today.
Whether it be by what we have done, or simply not done, we must allow love to grow and flourish in our hearts to overcome hate. That is our solemn responsibility and is the glue that will put our shattered lens back together again.
To the fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, children, cousins, uncles, grandfathers and friends killed in this tragedy we ask and pray for comfort during this time of great sadness and grief.