Listen: Nick Duke chats to Katrina Roe. Above: Students leave flowers on a tribute wall at a vigil at Canterbury University in Christchurch to show their unity and support for those affected by the mosque attack. Image: Facebook, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
Thousands of students gathered to pray, to leave floral tributes, to remember those killed in Friday’s mosque attack, and to show their unity, at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch today.
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The vigil was hosted by the university’s Christian chaplain. Nick Duke, who pastors Cornerstone Church on the campus, spoke to Hope 103.2 after the event. He said it was the largest gathering he’s has seen in his 10 years working at the university.
“It was hosted by the Christian chaplain on campus, and [there was a] sense of a majority-faith group making real space for a minority-faith group and standing with them,” he told Katrina Roe.
“People wanted to make a statement really clearly that ‘we stand with you as a community’, saying very clearly, ‘You’re welcome here’. There was a wall where people could put flowers and messages and one of the messages that stood out for me was ‘This is your home’. That was encouraging to see.”
A group of university students created a video (above) expressing their love and support for the Muslim community, ending with the Maori phrase, Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui, meaning “be strong, be brave, be steadfast”.
Children Traumatised by Schools Lockdown
Nick (pictured, left) said the city is shaken and many will need long-term care as they process the trauma of the incident.
He said not only was the Muslim community shaken over the 50 lives lost and as many more injured. Nearly every child in the city, too, would have had some level of a traumatic experience, as all the city’s schools went into ‘lockdown’ during the incident. Four of his own five children experienced the lockdown.
“I really feel for the teachers, they didn’t have information at first about what was going on, so they were managing their emotions as they’re trying to look after our kids,” he said.
Some schools took the threat so seriously that they locked doors and windows and sheltered children in the centre of their classrooms, with lights off and total silence – in case there was a gunman on site, said Nick.
“I can imagine that was pretty traumatic for a lot of kids – the experience of being in a darkened room trying to be quiet,” he said. “One [of my kids] said people were crying, having panic attacks.”
Traumatised Children Need Extra Care
People of faith are being called to pray for those traumatised in the attack – that they will not only cope in the short-term, but have ongoing support.
Nick said the children who had been most affected by the 2010-11 earthquakes, were now growing up and entering university, and in his experience as a chaplain, they required extra care from a mental health point of view. He said the same care would need to be taken as primary-aged kids who have been a witness to Friday’s terror attack, grow into adulthood.
“We’d appreciate prayers… the Muslim community is going to be struggling for a while.”
~ Nick Duke
“Apparently kids 11, 12, 13 are the kids most affected by [a trauma] like this,” he said. “Mental health in the longer term is the thing we’re going to be watching in the city. Short term help will pour in with care packages and things but the mental health challenges are going to be years ahead, particularly for the kids we’re seeing now at schools. It’s a long game not just short. We’d appreciate prayers for that…the Muslim community is going to be struggling for a while.”
Cornerstone Church held what they called “services of lament and hope” on Sunday to pray and mourn the tragic loss of lives.