A Prayer for New Zealand

It was my privilege to lead my church in prayer during our service this morning:

Like you I have spent the weekend reflecting, with despair, and with tears, following the events in Christchurch on Friday.

That at least 49 people have lost their lives.

I have felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of news coming through.

It has been the topic of conversation with everyone I have met.

I have felt grief as our country has lost its innocence.

Sometimes, no matter how strong our faith, we don’t know how, or what, to think.

Or, perhaps even, how, or what, to pray.

What happened on Friday is not what, or who, we think our country is.

It is certainly not what we hope our country can be.

How can this happen in New Zealand?

On Friday afternoon I listened to Jacinda Ardern, our Prime Minister, speak to the media while news was still breaking. 

She captured our national sentiment, and hope. 

The essence of her statement was summarised in her Twitter message at the time:

What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.

Soon after that I read a message from Commissioner Andy Westrupp, leader of the Salvation Army in New Zealand:

Dear friends

I am writing to you following the events in Christchurch today, where gunmen have attacked people in mosques in Christchurch. The Salvation Army stands with our Muslim brothers and sisters and totally condemns this unprecedented act of violence towards people who were peacefully at worship.

As far as we are aware at this point, all of our Salvation Army people are safe. Some of our corps were in lockdown, but were released by police. Staff at Linwood Corps, near to the Linwood Mosque, were able to comfort people in the street and provide transport to those who needed it.

Other staff have provided similar support across the city. Our emergency van has been deployed and we will be working closely with authorities and other support agencies in the coming days about the help we can provide.

The horror of these attacks reminds us of our shared humanity and the urgent need to stand for love and peace. I am calling on all Salvationists to join me in praying for the people of Christchurch, especially those affected, and asking Corps Officers to make significant time for this in prayer meetings and Sunday worship this weekend.

God bless you, Andy.

My daughter Andrea and I were talking on Friday evening when she sent me this message:

I’m freaked out. In true disbelief. That this can happen here? New Zealand isn’t perfect – I’m not stupid. I know racism is a thing here. But this was a well thought out attack. For what? Because someone believes something different to you? There isn’t a single person on this planet that I agree with on everything. What makes this difference worth killing for? Innocent people. It’s disgusting. I’ll never understand what those people were thinking today. But I don’t know what to do from here. How can I show the Muslim community that this isn’t the NZ that I want? That they should feel safe here. That they are welcome. That even though I don’t follow their religion that I respect them.

I am so proud of Andrea for capturing her feelings so eloquently … but most of all for having those feelings … which so many will share.

As Christians, we have some differences of belief with our Muslim brothers, but I cannot help but note that they too trace the roots of their faith to Abraham.

Whatever our differences, we have so much more in common.

If nothing else, we are both people of faith … and, both of our faiths are based on an understanding of Jehovah. He who provides. God.

We also both express our faith through prayer.

Prayer when we are alone.

Prayer as a part of the daily rhythm of life.

And, prayer when we meet together with our fellow believers.

Something that was at the centre of the horrors of Friday afternoon.

In some ways, right now, I feel that the shortest verse in the bible has never carried so much meaning.

“Jesus wept”

Let us pray.

Lord, today we weep … with you … and with the people of Christchurch.

For those who were killed on Friday afternoon … Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who were injured … Lord, hear our prayer.

For their families … Lord, hear our prayer.

For their friends … Lord, hear our prayer.

For the people of the Al Noor Mosque … Lord, hear our prayer.

For the people of the Linwood Islamic Centre … Lord, hear our prayer.

For the police and other emergency services … Lord, hear our prayer.

For social services, including our colleagues in the Salvation Army in Christchurch, who will be providing support … Lord, hear our prayer.

For the city and people of Christchurch … who have been traumatised far too often in recent years … Lord, hear our prayer.

For the family and friends of those who performed these terrible acts … Lord, hear our prayer.

For the leaders of our cities, and our nation … our Prime Minister, our Ministers, our Members of Parliament, our Mayors, our city, district and regional councillors, our public servants … those who have to grapple with how public policy and our laws should be changed in response to these events … Lord, hear our prayer.

For all of us as we grapple with how to respond … Lord, hear our prayer.

For those traumatised by these terrible events in any way … Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, today we weep … as do you.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Amen.