In March this year New Zeeland and the rest of the world faced a terrorist attack. At two mosques 50 in the city Christchurch, people were killed. When such an incredible amount of politicaly motivated violence hits the society, a separation among the people can easily take place.
Here we see the power of language in a speech of prime minister Jacinda Ardern. In front of a huge audiance she gave words where silence fall upon the people. A few sentences of this speech:
We gather here, 14 days on from our darkest of hours. In the days that have followed the terrorist attack on the 15th of March, we have often found ourselves without words.
What words adequately express the pain and suffering of 50 men, women and children lost, and so many injured? What words capture the anguish of our Muslim community being the target of hatred and violence? What words express the grief of a city that has already known so much pain?
I thought there were none. And then I came here and was met with this simple greeting. As-salaam Alaikum. Peace be upon you.
They were simple words, repeated by community leaders who witnessed the loss of their friends and loved ones. Simple words, whispered by the injured from their hospital beds. Simple words, spoken by the bereaved and everyone I met who has been affected by this attack.
As-salaam Alaikum. Peace be upon you.
They were words spoken by a community who, in the face of hate and violence, had every right to express anger but instead opened their doors for all of us to grieve with them. And so we say to those who have lost the most, we may not have always had the words.
We may have left flowers, performed the haka, sung songs or simply embraced. But even when we had no words, we still heard yours, and they have left us humbled and they have left us united.
The PM immediately steps into the paradox experienced by everyone, including herself. She expressed herself by saying, by asking: “What to say?”. She starts exeplary, a kind of language research, finding ‘simple words’. I think she invites the people to follow her in this research process.
And then I came here and was met with this simple greeting. As-salaam Alaikum. Peace be upon you.