O Lord, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry. (Psalm 88:1-2)
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
As you all will have seen in the news, yesterday afternoon there was an appalling act of mass murder in which a gunman shot 49 worshippers dead at two separate mosques in Christchurch. Forty-eight people are in Christchurch hospital being treated for gunshot wounds, many of whom are fighting for their lives.
At this stage a 28-year-old Australian man has been arrested and charged with murder, while two others remain in custody. The charged man is now known to have been motivated by racist and anti-Muslim attitudes, and — appallingly — tried to draw attention to himself and his actions by filming and streaming his attack live online.
NZ PM Jacinda Ardern said yesterday that it was one of the country’s ‘darkest days’. She also said of the victims that ‘they are us’, that is, not a ‘them’ as the gunman sought to portray them. In the aftermath of the attack, praise God that many people in our major cities reached out to Muslim friends and strangers to offer sympathy and support.
I (Bishop Mark) have written to both the Muslim community in Christchurch and to the national body, assuring them of the prayers and love of the members of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand. I have arranged with the small group of Lutherans in Tauranga to visit the mosque in the city after our house worship this morning. We will bring flowers, we will show and express our love, and we will pray there. I am also trying to arrange with the people of the Kawerau Lutheran Church that we might do the same in their community tomorrow. The outpouring of expressions of love from the Christian community and wider community here in NZ has been wonderful.
Let us pray to God our loving Father:
E te Ariki, kia aroha mai. (Lord, have mercy)
E te Karaiti, kia aroha mai. (Christ, have mercy)
E te Ariki, kia aroha mai. (Lord, have mercy)
Loving God, we cry to you for our broken world, and for those who seek their own way through violence and threat.
Draw near to and comfort the many people who have lost loved ones in this terrible attack, including family members in other countries for whom the separation of distance will be especially painful. Help us and your people everywhere to act as agents of your presence by doing what we can to lend our support.
We pray for the injured. Heal their bodies and hearts. Console them with your presence and, at the same time, calm any hatred and desire for revenge. We pray also for the medical personnel caring for them, and for all the witnesses and first responders who will be deeply affected by the terrible violence they have witnessed.
We pray for the people of Christchurch, who have already been through so much in recent years. Comfort them and grant them peace. Please be especially with Pastor Darryl Shoesmith and members of the Lutheran community in Christchurch as they respond to these events. Grant peace also to us in other parts of New Zealand, shocked as we are to realise that even here we are not immune to acts of terror.
We pray for the police and intelligence services as they prosecute those responsible and work to prevent future attacks.
We pray for our political leaders and government. Inspire them to govern with wisdom and determination.
We pray for Muslim communities in Aotearoa-New Zealand and Australia, that we can reassure them by showing them that the perpetrators of this violence do not represent us. In the same way, help us and all our fellow citizens to avoid making unfair generalisations about the Muslim community when we hear of violence inspired by radical interpretations of Islam.
And we pray for people whose hearts are filled with hate and who seek to sow hatred and stir it up in others against others who are different. Touch their hearts that they might see the evil of their ways and repent. Restrain all people who are rightly angry that they let the police do the charging and the courts decide and apply the punishment, that we may be spared retaliatory acts of terror that would destroy the hard-won and highly valued trust and cohesion among members of our community.
God of love, turn our hearts to your ways, and give us peace.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pastor Mark Whitfield
Lutheran Church of New Zealand
Pastor John Henderson
Lutheran Church of Australia.