By Sean Plunket, host of Magic Afternoons.
New Zealand declared victory in its war on terror last Friday at 1.32 pm. In seven days this tiny nation at the bottom of the world faced down the most serious threat to its imperfect yet peaceful existence in living memory.
Victory didn’t come from the barrel of a gun, it wasn’t proclaimed on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a far-off ocean or by jubilant crowds celebrating the killing of a fugitive criminal in a foreign land.
It was declared in silence all across our beautiful country as we bowed our heads and listened to a call to prayer in a language most of us don’t know observing a religion most of us don’t follow.
It came as many of the victims of Friday the 15th”s cowardly attack were being prepared for burial and their community grieved at the loss of one in every thousand of their kin.
The world witnessed our sombre, bittersweet declaration of peace and unity. It was beamed live around the globe reaching every corner of the planet and many seemed inspired and confused at our remarkable success.
How did we achieve this, how did we prevent the most heinous crime ever committed on our shores from plunging us into terror and chaos? The answer is simple, we chose love.
We didn’t even kill the individual who came for us, seemingly out of nowhere, we arrested him, locked him up and will deal with him in our way and in our time.
He of course wanted us to go to war. He wanted us to panic to be fearful, and in that panic and fear turn on each other and our multi-cultural tolerant way of life.
He wanted us to point the finger of blame at each other, get angry, get violent, lose our minds with rage and grief, but we didn’t.
Some tried to paint New Zealand as a seething bed of latent racism, to claim a rugby team’s name was part of the problem or that his crimes were somehow fuelled by their political foes and a self-help book.
But we didn’t fall for it.
Instead we got about the business of protecting and caring for those most affected. We took swift legislative action to limit the ability of any future attacker to inflict such carnage again and we gave love.
Our politicians (with two notable exceptions) ceased hostilities and our Prime Minister without hesitation rightly performed her duties as mourner in chief for an entire nation with genuine compassion and empathy.
We were led too by our Muslim community who despite their grief and anger accepted our love and support with a dignity and grace which gave the lie to any criticism of their much-maligned faith.
By last Friday our war on terror was over. It was over because we never let the terror take hold and we knew that had we gone to war it would only have been against each other.
Of course this will leave us changed as a country and as individuals. But it is my earnest belief that it will largely be a change for the better, the exact opposite of what he wanted. We will still disagree and debate and be divided on policies and preferences but having faced our darkest days and emerged into the light we have a much better chance of winning the peace.
I have never felt prouder to be a New Zealander or felt more love for my fellow citizens.
Peace be upon us all.
Sean Plunket is the host of Magic Afternoons.