Jacinda Ardern’s response after Christchurch terror attack has been exemplary
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been inclusive and humane, without being lax on the terror front.Updated: Mar 20, 2019 07:39 IST
New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has not put a foot wrong while responding to the devastating terror attack on her country. Last Friday, after the mosque attack in Christchurch, she said, while referring to the victims: “They are us.” Devoid of bluster, shorn of rhetoric, filled with compassion and empathy, those three words became the totemic rallying point for a country in the throes of coping with the worst terrorist attack in its modern history.
On March 15, Ms Ardern pledged in Parliament that she would never utter the name of the gunman. “He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety; that is why you will never hear me mention his name.” She urged people to talk about the victims rather than the killer. “I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them… He will, when I speak, be nameless.” In choosing to not even dignify him with a name and shifting the focus away from the terrorist, and back on to the victims, as well as their mourning families, Ms Ardern showed what was most important at this hour. She showed that it was more important to be compassionate rather than bloodthirsty.
Her public utterances have been markedly different from those of many other world leaders in similar circumstances. She has been measured but warm, sought to be the solace for a grieving nation, expressed her sympathy and sorrow for those affected without resorting to vows of revenge and violence. She has done all this, but has left no one in any doubt about what she feels about terrorists and terror. Her discourse has been inclusive, rich in diversity, and humane.
At the same time, she has been decisive, uncompromising and full of resolve. Within 48 hours of the attack, she pushed for tougher gun laws, something American politicians, put in similar situations, could learn a great deal from. “This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,” she said.
The grace, dignity and purposefulness with which Ms Ardern has dealt with this terrible crisis make her an exemplar of how to respond in such situations. In a political world defined by binaries, she has been a rousing force that has united her country, and the larger world, in admiration for her.