Tēnā koutou katoa
We send love to our Muslim brothers and sisters at this terrible time.
Writers through their work, can spread understanding of other cultures and faiths. They can celebrate the dignity and mana of these faiths and cultures. They can dispel hatred and fear.
They can show that the 'other', the foreigner, the immigrant, is just like us, with the same hopes, struggles and dreams. This can help combat the anti-immigrant rhetoric of political leaders who set people against each-other for their own ends, and who encourage and give legitimacy to racists and haters.
They can shed light on the corrupting role of violence and the glorification of violence.
A week later, things had changed. I passed the heaped up mountains of flowers left by Aucklanders, pungent but decaying, and was ushered into the domed room of the mosque by a smiling young man. I sat cross-legged on deep red carpet while the bearded imam, a Koran in one hand, reminded his flock, seated before him, that we are all living on borrowed time. He alternated Arabic with English. Above him, a huge red digital clock underlined his words.
I was aware of my own 'otherwise' in this holy place; how alien, how foreign I felt, a striking reminder of how awkward and out-of-place Muslims must often feel in our cities. I was inside the fortress looking out. I listened to the oratory for half an hour then left.
Still, here were a Muslim and a Buddhist holding hands on a street outside a Catholic Church in a small country which has just been torn open by an unthinkable act of barbarity. In the wake of such terrible events, perhaps this was a little progress.
We can use these attacks to cross the moats between cultures and faiths. And we can take action as writers, too.
In 'Midnight’s Children', Salman Rushdie reveals in magical prose, the moment when the Indian sub-continent freed itself from the shackles of British colonial rule, and ran helter-skelter down a new, riotous and uncontrollable route to independence.
Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace and Albert Wendt have shown how grievously neglected our own Pacific identity has been until recent decades, and how this marginalisation and neglect has diminished us all. Their books strike a rich new vein of cultural complexity that we New Zealanders can mine for our genuinely Polynesian future.
These books are narratives of emancipation and enlightenment. Of cultures emerging from the past and establishing something precious and new.
In the face of this richness, poetry and diversity, the writing of white supremacists is shown to be arid, impoverished, and destined for the dust-bin of history.
They were among the most brave, resilient and cheerful people I have ever met. They were thankful for the relative safety of their new home. They were grateful for the smallest generosities and the kindness of their host communities. Our Muslim countrymen and women here in Aotearoa remind me of them.
The Christchurch mass-killer posted an 87-page, 16,000 word manifesto on the libertarian website 8chan. It was lucid, spell-checked, and persuasive for those who desire to hate. It was a paean to medieval notions of racial superiority that informed the Christian crusades and animated a generation of Nazis in 1939.
Racist writers around the world, egged on by a new wave of populist politicians, echo Tarrant's message on their websites and in their chat rooms.
We must use our own skills as writers to counter these messages.
Writers are opinion makers, culture bearers and influencers. The best writers aspire to the highest standards of humanity. To what we all have in common. To our brotherhood and sisterhood with other nations.