The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

From the Head of Junior School

Considering a Tragedy

On Sunday 17 March, I sat in church with my family, as I usually do on a Sunday morning, listening to our priest deliver his homily for the week. I glanced around the church at the congregation which included mums and dads with their children, grandparents and elderly couples, babies crawling around and toddlers running up the aisles. I glanced around to the open doors to my right, leading onto the oval and the open doors behind me. My thoughts then went to Christchurch to the 50 people attending their Friday worship service in their mosque when a man walks in, ends the lives of some and changes the lives of their families and friends forever. I thought about how vulnerable we were seated there and, that if someone decided to wreak havoc in our congregation, there was absolutely nothing we could do except hope and pray.

In an interview following the attacks in Christchurch on 15 March, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted that "The world has seen us as just who we are. We're a nation of over 200 ethnicities, 160 languages, we see ourselves as peaceful and inclusive. The act has been so counter to that..."

I am not writing today about faith. I am not writing about God's role in this happening or not happening or helping us recover from it. I am thinking about what can be done to prevent people from becoming like this individual, to be filled with hate and to take it to this extreme.

When I reflect on my life and the opportunities that I have had as I was growing up, my thoughts return to my home town of Thunder Bay, which was a very isolated small town effectively in the middle of nowhere. In Thunder Bay, if you were a person who was not a white Canadian or a native Canadian you stood out like a sore thumb. On my paper route there was one Indian family, a doctor's family, and everyone else was white.

My opportunities to meet people of other nationalities and cultures did not happen in my home town. As I have lived outside of Canada and travelled, I have met people from every continent of the world and from so many countries. The opportunity to meet those people and have those experiences has coloured my opinion of people around the world. I didn't like all of them, I didn't get along with all of them, however, I guess in the words of Martin Luther King 'I judged them on the content of their character and not by the colour of their skin'.

So how can we deal with the hate that some people feel? What can we do as parents? Experiences and opportunities, teaching our children how to value the people they meet and form an opinion based on the person, not their religion or their skin colour.

Looking at my children's future and what I want to do for them as a parent, I want them to meet people from lots of places with different beliefs and learn to appreciate and respect those people and understand, that while we all may appear different, we have a lot more in common than we realise.  Encouraging understanding, respect and kindness will help us to overcome fear and hatred. To create social connectedness, it is not enough to simply tolerate the differences of other people, cultures and backgrounds but rather we need to create an inclusive society in which everyone is able to live a life of dignity.