Peter wrote this perspective piece for The Press. It was published this week…
I have the privilege of living in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch, close to the Otakaro-Avon River in Richmond. Most days during the lockdown my wife and I walk or cycle along the Otakaro River Trail which winds alongside the river from the city centre to the sea. The trail is alive with people out in their bubbles walking the dog or the kids, or jogging, biking, enjoying all this place has to offer.
As we walk, I reflect on what a transformation has happened here over the last decade. The earthquakes brought trauma and devastation on an unprecedented scale to what became known as the Residential Red Zone. Thousands of houses munted, people displaced, land useless for building; desolation as village communities were destroyed and the ties that bind communities together seemingly ripped apart.
But what was once a place of trauma is now an oasis of healing. The spirit of the people who lived here, the wairua of this land will not be defeated. People reached out to build a vision of how the future might be in the rejuvenated eastern suburbs, honouring those for whom this had been their home, working with local folk, with voluntary and statutory agencies to create a multipurpose river park from the city to the sea. Here we might regenerate the indigenous habitat and develop community initiatives which enhance this special place, to make it a go to place where the city comes to relax, rejuvenate and play.
It has been a huge collaborative effort and there is much to be done to realise the vision but as I walk along this track I can feel the embrace of this land, healing from trauma to embrace values of creativity, connectedness between us and the environment, sharing a yearning for health and wholeness and mutual well-being. Truly a place of trauma has become an oasis of healing and hope.
I think it is an analogy for what the world is going through now. As we live through the extraordinary consequences of this pandemic we are looking towards our future and how we will shape it.
We have been forced by this virus to press the pause button on the political, economic and social systems that we have created over the years and allowed to control the ways in which things are organised and done. Now across the world people are reflecting on just what kind of society we had. Was it fit for purpose? Do we want to simply press the start button and hope to’ get back to normal’, with the same principles and values of before?
I for one sincerely hope not!
We have a chance to challenge the greed and self-interest which has created an accepted ‘normality’ of obscene and increasing inequality, self-interest, poverty and injustice, where so few have so much and where so many have so little, and where we have brought ourselves to the edge of climate catastrophe.
Many are now stepping up to insist that we are at a watershed moment. This pandemic trauma could be the seedbed of hope and renewal. We are being challenged as a world to truly consider what are the values and principles, we want to shape our global future. As we prepare to release the pause button, surely, we know it makes common sense if we as a nation, as a world, are to survive and prosper then we need to embrace a vision of well-being and equity for all humanity and our fragile planet.
It is often in the darkest of times that we see the best in people. That was certainly true in our city post the quakes, and across our nation in these weeks of lock down. The human spirit of care, compassion and courage will not be denied.
I believe that love is stronger than hate, that life is stronger than death. That’s the profound truth of Easter for Christians. I also believe that all that separates and injures and destroys is and will be overcome by all that unites and heals and creates. Out of this trauma can come hope and new life.
Here is a prayer that I have shared in these pages before and which continues to challenge and encourage me. Whatever your faith may be or not, I hope you may embrace its sentiments:
God of many names, the lover of all peoples, the God of love,
Give us a vision of our world as your love would have it be;
a world where the weak are protected and none go hungry or poor,
where all the blessings and benefits of life are shared
so that everyone can enjoy them,
where people of every race, colour, gender, sexual orientation
– the whole kaleidoscope of humanity
is each treated with mutual dignity and respect, |
a world where our planet home is nourished and cared for,
where peace is built on justice and justice is guided by love.
And give to us the courage and inspiration to build such a world.
To that I say Amen!