Candlelight Vigil, March 29, 2019
The terrorist shootings at two mosques in New Zealand resulted in 50 people killed and 50 wounded; it became quickly evident that the perpetrator was acting from the sunken place of deep hatred. Acting quickly and effectively, prime minister Jacinda Ardern denounced his actions saying, “these are people I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand, and in fact, have no place in the world.” One week later the Prime Minister banned assault rifles and established a national government gun buyback program. One New Zealand farmer, John Hart, wrote an editorial about why he decided to turn in his gun:
Until that Friday, I had always considered my weapon nothing more than a tool. Everything changed once I saw how devastating it can be in the wrong hands. How could I argue that this efficient killer was the only way to take care of my land? When I weighed its potential for harm against its convenience, the choice was obvious. I didn’t need an assault weapon.
Soon after his piece appeared, he became a target of American pro-gun advocates who bombarded his social media accounts. Yet despite external pressures and threats he refuses to become intimidated.
Last year a young American woman, Mollie Tibbets, was murdered. Her father, an Iowa farmer, refused to engage in the current rhetoric that encourages religious, racial, cultural bias and hate. He wrote:
I am Hispanic. I am African. I am Asian. I am European. My blood runs from every corner of the Earth because I am American. As an American, I have one tenet: to respect every citizen of the world and actively engage in the ongoing pursuit to form a more perfect union. Given that, to knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag, it incites fear in innocent communities and lends legitimacy to the darkest, most hate-filled corners of the American soul. It is the opposite of leadership. It is the opposite of humanity. It is heartless. It is despicable. It is shameful.
We stand here tonight with our hearts breaking over the senseless tragedy against innocent Muslim worshippers and appalled at the capacity people have for senseless violence. Our legacy is for teachers and students—as humans with a common goal--to educate each other to achieve a peaceful end to the violence that inundates us. As your president I stand here today for every student, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, whatever your belief system may be, who ever attended the University of Bridgeport, and I am committed to promoting a tolerant, safe and intellectual campus climate where people can safely come together for the common purpose of understanding themselves and the world to create a better life for all.