Like most, we are devastated by the senseless loss of life in Christchurch, New Zealand. The sanctity of life so brutally stolen from the 49 victims has been gut wrenching, dizzying. While we try to process, our hearts remain with everyone affected by this latest, horrific terrorist attack. Forty-nine human beings, in a fraction of a second, lost their lives. Many more wounded, physically, but also, mentally and emotionally as well. Families have been torn apart, forever changed. As this horrendous act virally spread around the world, millions of more people began to suffer. Previous victims of hate-crimes and violence, and their families, are immediately transported back to their own horror and trauma. Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Sikhs, and all who’ve experienced religious and racial persecution must face fear and panic, once again. It’s hard not to wonder if safety and security are simply no more. It’s hard not to start believing that our most precious commodity, human life, is just not precious enough. Is it truly possible to live in a world without hate?
In the midst of the horrific images, footage, and media reels replaying the terror as it unfolded, stories of love and hope have begun to emerge. Entire communities have come together, literally lining the streets with signs of support for their Muslim neighbors heading to prayer. In the midst of the unspeakable madness inside the Christchurch mosque, one worshiper made the conscious decision to throw his body in front of another, sacrificing his own life for his Muslim brother. More and more courageous acts are coming to light. One of the first victims of this terror attack turned to the shooter as he entered, welcoming him to the mosque. His last word, “Brother.” In our own home, messages of support, friendship, and love have been pouring in, many renewed commitments to ending this unspeakable cycle of hate and violence.
These heroic stories, acts of true compassion, thoughts of kindness and empathy are the reasons why we hold onto hope and have dedicated our lives to doing all that we can to build a world without hate for all. Each day, we recall the final words of Rais’ attacker before his own execution, “Hate is going on everywhere and it has to stop. Hate brings a lifetime of pain.” As a victim of a brutal post 9/11 hate-crime, Rais Bhuiyan, continues to make peace with his pain. We share his story of forgiveness and empathy in hopes of inspiring others to choose the same. Engaging with people throughout the country, and around the world, through empathy education and courageous conversation allows us to shatter the stereotypes, misnomers, and even fear perpetuated by some of our leaders, media, and misinformed citizens. This year, World Without Hate is embarking on a National Empathy Ride, visiting communities across the country in hopes of dialoguing with our fellow Americans in a safe, comfortable, and respectful atmosphere so that we may dismantle the myths of the “other,” addressing questions and fears, developing and strengthening the capacity to see each other as human beings first, and paving the way for peace, understanding, and acceptance – the cure for hate and violence.
As always, we cannot end the cycle of hate and violence without you. We are all responsible for upholding our most inherent and basic human right – the right to life. Join us on social media to share your photos and tokens of love and friendship, erasing the images and footage of hate, violence, and murder. Reach out to your neighbors, co-workers, and community members who may be experiencing tremendous difficulty during this time or who are going through challenges in their own lives because of the fear and hate they carry in their hearts, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Visit a religious institution different from yours to experience how truly welcoming and warm these houses of worship and their members truly are. Rise up and act with courage, when you witness a post, a moment, or an incident of ignorance, fear, or hate, regardless of who the victims are.
Above all, commit to doing your part to change the narrative and to combat hate and violence for the long term. Today and tomorrow we may still hear about this latest act of terror, but it will all soon fade, and we will resume our regularly scheduled programming, until the next time. We don’t stand a chance of erasing “the next time” if we don’t work together and demand change for once and for all. We have a long way to go, there is no doubt, but together, we can create the world we all deserve – a world without violence, a world without victims, and a World Without Hate.
To all those who have lost their lives or suffered at the hands of this evil and hate-fill attack in New Zealand, and around the world — for you, we will never, ever give up.
With love and light,
Rais and Jessica Bhuiyan
World Without Hate