The American Ethical Union utterly condemns the evil act of violence that took 49 lives and injured 48 people in Christchurch, New Zealand. Murder is always wrong, but atrocities which target a group of people because of their religion or ethnicity compound that wrong by harming not just the victims themselves but their entire community. People should not have to live in fear because of their faith, ethnicity, or race, yet for many Muslims, and many immigrants, fear is a daily reality.
This mass killing is a terrifying reminder of the power of hatred to move people to take the lives of others. It is reported that the shooter espoused racist and white nationalist views and published a document online outlining his motivations in which he expressed extremist, right-wing, anti-immigrant sentiments. Though New Zealand is geographically distant from the USA, we cannot deny and must not forget that similar sentiments are festering in the hearts of too many Americans, sometimes provoked by prominent political figures who scapegoat immigrants and demean Muslims for political gain. The killer’s own actions demonstrate that racist right-wing extremism is a global phenomenon: in his “manifesto” he praised white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof.
Hatred has consequences, and the atrocity in Christchurch should serve as a call to all of us to actively resist hatred in our own communities. We must condemn Islamophobia, the wicked insinuation that Islam is a uniquely dangerous and alien religion. We must condemn racist anti-immigrant rhetoric, which wrongly suggests that only a select class of people deserve respect, dignity, and protection. Muslims are full members of our human community and deserve a world in which their dignity is cherished. We at the American Ethical Union commit ourselves to working in solidarity with the victims wounded in these attacks and with the families of those who were killed to create such a world–a world in which today’s events would be unthinkable.