The large turnout at a community prayer vigil at the Christ Church Cathedral last year.
The large turnout at a community prayer vigil at the Christ Church Cathedral last year.

Unspeakable act of terrorism could spark change

WHEN the shooting started in the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, a regrettable link was forged with the town of Grafton.

One year later, people are still trying to understand it.

In the immediate aftermath there was a public outpouring of grief and a show of solidarity with the victims.

Political and religious leaders spoke of showing kindness and compassion to their fellow humans, rejecting outright the sinister nature of religious and racial discrimination.

Equally though, there was a section of the community unwilling to discuss the events of March 15, 2019, expressing a view the terrorist's hometown was of little relevance.

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However, the Very Reverend Dr Gregory Jenks, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Grafton said failing to acknowledge the tragedy would prevent the community from growing more resilient.

Resilience that would help in future disasters or traumatic events.

"Research shows us that communities that are resilient and compassionate and do actually talk about what needs to be fixed are the communities that do better when a crisis comes," Dr Jenks said.

He said while there was no need to tease out every little detail, there was some "unfinished business".

"This horrific event showed us that we've got to deal with fear, we've got to deal with ignorance and we've got to deal with hatred," he said.

"Because if we don't, it'll pop up in all kinds of bad ways. All silence does is sweep it under the carpet."

Tomorrow's interfaith service at the Christ Church Cathedral, organised by Dr Jenks, was not intended to be a commemoration service at first.

RELATED: Service to mark one year since Christchurch tragedy

It had been organised as a service for school students with Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis on board to talk about leadership.

But Dr Jenks could not ignore the timing and reached out to leaders in other faiths.

While he would not be addressing the events in Christchurch explicitly, he agreed the very nature of an interfaith service sent a powerful message about harmony.

"We can disagree about our beliefs but we can still have common humanity and common concern for prospering and leading lives free of violence," he said. "And that is what the prayers and the readings are about."

Rathi Ramanathan from migrant advocacy group LOETUS has been working tirelessly to promote social cohesion in the Clarence, especially since the terrorist attack.

She said building a socially cohesive community was key to preventing a repeat of the violence seen in Christchurch and importantly, preventing young men from being recruited by extremist groups.

"I do worry that regional towns like ours will continue to be fertile grounds for their (far right groups) recruitment," she said.

"We should be vigilant to these sort of extremist activities, whether it's Islamic extremists or white-nationalist extremists.

"We have to get better at not being so socially isolated and start engaging more. The more we can do that the more we can prevent that stuff."

Ms Ramanathan agreed the enduring legacy of the shootings could be that Grafton, and regional communities around Australia, would be made to reflect.

"It's an opportunity to reflect and yes, sometimes we have to be uncomfortable."