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About two weeks back, the world was shocked by the senseless murder of some 50 people who were ruthlessly gunned during Friday prayers in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Among the dead was Malaysian student Muhammad Haziq Mohd Tarmizi, 17. Two other Malaysians were also injured.

Mourners left flowers at a memorial in New Zealand for victims of the attack

The tragedy was even more shocking as New Zealand was not a country known for violence or racial hatred. On the contrary, it had a reputation for being peaceful, with friendly people and scenic spots dotting the country’s landscape.

As a plural country, which has seen our share of racial-religious flare-ups late, we can draw several lessons from this dark episode. Firstly, we should always be vigilant against attempts to tear away the social fabric of this country. Our Founding Fathers had built this nation on the principle of “unity in diversity”.

This is why compassion, empathy and a sincere desire to reach out to all are the cornerstones of a stable and united nation. We should never take this for granted. The least we can do is to agree to disagree in a civil, compassionate manner.

It is also heartening to note that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had displayed tremendous courage and compassion amid a national crisis. She had become a unifying figure with her inclusiveness and continued assurance to the Muslim minority about their safety.

Ardern wearing a Muslim headscarf in solidarity with the Muslims in her country

It is imperative that political leaders, whether in New Zealand or Malaysia, display courage by doing the right things, not just harp on sentiments for short-term gains. PM Arden had certainly hit the right chord with her astute leadership in the aftermath of the attacks.

We should never take our unity for granted

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