Skip to content

Category: prose

Reconnecting to life: being a teacher on a school camp

3 things I learnt as a teacher on a school camp:

1. How a long bushwalk renews me. 

To take in the soaring canopies of trees and to enjoy my experience of that spaciousness. To notice the crunching of shoes on soil and rocks, and to advise young ones about placing each step strategically and with purpose. To allow the thick grey ocean of fresh air to awaken my spirit. To hear the gentle patterns of rain on my backpack and jacket and let quiet joy bubble to the surface.

2. How teamwork creates belonging.

The teaching staff accompanying students on camp were a close-knit team. We enjoyed responding to each day. We knew the thrill of working together to ensure our students had a good and uplifting learning experience. We laughed with good humour over food and supported each other in our foibles. All told it was a belonging to a collaborative, close-knit team.

3. How disconnecting from tech allows us to reconnect with life

Enjoying the natural environment meant being disconnected from tech and its tasks. This fact alone allowed me to reconnect to people and place and self. I allowed the experience to bring renewal to my spirit. Now, on returning to the world of tech and tasks, I am more intentional.

Leave a Comment

Celebrating Caroline Jones, a great encourager to me

I had several joyful encounters with Australian journalism icon Caroline Jones between 2013 and 2015. The dynamic, generous, gracious, warm Australian Story host died this week. The ABC have published a beautiful tribute. She was 84.

Our encounter began with conversation via tweets and direct messages. I had been a Jesuit novice from 2011-2013 and one day after moving home, I told her of my decision. She replied “Thankyou for letting me know James. God bless you on your way and keep Tweeting.” Later that year, Caroline reached out to me to see how I was going.

“Within the bounds of possibility”

As the new year 2014 began, Caroline wrote to me “Dear James, I hope that 2014 is to be a good year for you. Yes, the image of lighting one small candle is a very appealing one, and seems within the bounds of possibility, doesn’t it ?”

Later that January she invited me to attend a Mass celebrated by Jesuit Fr Paul Coleman one Sunday and to go to a cafe for “morning tea” afterwards.

We met for morning tea again six months later and spoke about faith and life, dancing and reading, her life and my hopes. We followed up our conversations with warm emails and sharing of links to On Being interviews and books.

In July 2015, after sending Caroline an update on my plans, Caroline wrote “Very envious of your planned studies for this semester  !  And a teaching Dip Ed next year sounds like a great idea !!!” Caroline Jones was always a great encourager.

Who are you? Caroline Jones interview

In awe of this amazing person, about that time I listened to and transcribed part of a 2013 interview Caroline had with ABC Perth journalist Geoff Hutchison. “Who are you? Caroline Jones” is an extraordinary conversation still available to download. I was especially moved about her insights into listening, the nourishment of spirituality, and the affirming nature of her community of faith:

“I think we find nourishment for the spirit in many ways. For me, through my belonging to a community of faith. I don’t see religion particularly as a private thing. I love to belong to community. For me, my faith has introduced me to a sort of family of spirituality which is very enjoyable. We also find spiritual nourishment – or I do – in music, in dancing, in friendship – in so many ways.”

Caroline Jones

Here is my transcript of part of the interview. The opening response speaks of her program “The Search for Meaning”:

May Caroline Jones rest in peace. I experienced your great goodness. Farewell and thank you!


Shane Warne: a master artist at work on the field

There is a deep sadness in me on hearing of cricketer Shane Warne’s death in Thailand of a suspected heart attack aged 52. Watching S. K. Warne as a boy alongside my brothers and cousins was one of the great joys of my childhood. Over hours of backyard cricket, the awe I felt in following his bowling example helped me grow in love for life.

Shane Warne

I remember those glorious test match summers with the TV on throughout the day for Warnie’s long spin-bowling sessions. Here was the best at work, and my open eyes were steady as they looked at the screen. Here was a bowler crafting, shaping, bouncing precisely on the spot he wanted it to land on, spinning the way from outside leg to off with confidence, verve and concealment. The “ball of the century” was Rembrandt-in-action, casting a spell over both Gatting and commentators in a video I remember watching again and again in the early days of YouTube.

The magician of leg spin, the exemplar of the wrong’un, the chef behind the flipper, that glorious supercharged and zealous wicket-taker for the ages! With Glenn McGrath on rotation at the other end, here was the height of teamwork. As they sounded off each other, how could you not be amazed? Offering ideas to the captain (Border, Taylor, Waugh, Ponting) on best field placements, you could see his mind buzzing with enthusiasm. With his expert strategic wondering, Shane Warne’s whole self was focused on catching a skilled batsman off guard with a well-concealed variation on the theme. 

A letter to Shane Warne in gratitude

Dear Shane, in sharing your gift with cricket you gave us a great blessing. You were an artist with the red ball, a skilled example of passionate striving, a showman who could hide what sort of bowl you’d offer next. You would leave greats like Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar seeking insight into the mystery. You seemed to delight in the thrill of these exchanges. Your duels with the best were magic for me, a dedicated eleven year old super-fan.

In my school cricket from 1998-2005 I used to imitate your spin bowling craft: the exact pace and moving arms of the walk-in, through to the smooth arc of the delivery. My efforts were a study in imitation and love for you, this phenomenon of a sportsman. You taught me how skills in any pursuit require honing one’s craft.

Now you are at rest, with Richie Benaud welcoming you into the dressing rooms. Ready for the big dance on the balcony, stumps high above your head, joyfully proclaiming the wonder of life. 

May your commentary from high above the stands offer encouragement and inspiration to cricketers on every wicket. With affection, James


The Lord of the Rings and the Spiritual Exercises

For ten years J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) moved in my imagination. I began to read The Hobbit when I was 12 years old, and then read each of the three parts of the main series, and then saw the films. The LOTR is a foundational text in my life’s library.

Lord of the Rings and The Long Retreat

When I prayed a thirty day silent retreat with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in July 2011, the Lord of the Rings life-world soon bubbled away in my consciousness. These exercises involve a recipe of “memory, imagination, and will”, and so a spiritual meal enjoyed in God’s presence.

Over the four weeks of the retreat I encountered my memories, hopes, longings, dreams and choices in relation to God’s desires for me. I heard God’s call: “because you are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4). I experienced in a felt sense God’s deepening life in me. God’s personal love enfolded me in the silence.

As the retreat progressed, I prayed with various scenes from the life of Jesus as told in the Gospels. I would prayerfully imagine a passage, with all my senses engaged, entering the encounter as a participant or observer. Walking with Jesus from his nativity through his hidden and public lives and into his passion and resurrection, I would stay with words, phrases and images which moved me deeply. In so doing I entered a pattern of relishing and savouring the movements God was bringing about within me. I felt drawn to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Each day I entered the imaginative contemplations with my whole self fully engaged. Often my memories of scenes, characters, and journeys from LOTR moved in my heart’s response to the encounter with Jesus. I remembered Frodo’s quest with Sam to overcome The Ring. I remembered the integrity of Strider, on his way to become the future king Aragorn. I remembered Gandalf the Grey and his transforming journey into Gandalf the White.

Each of these three main characters played a role in my prayer. They emerged as part of the retreat dynamic. Frodo, Aragorn and Gandalf helped me meet Jesus the Christ.

Lord of the Rings and Jesus the Christ

In Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring is a community of support for the courageous Frodo as he carries a great burden (the Ring). Jesus eases peoples’ burdens and so builds communities of human freedom and responsibility.

In LOTR at a time of deepest darkness the beacons of Gondor are lit. Jesus is “the light of all people”, the light which shines in the deepest darkness, “and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

In LOTR, the journey of Strider from the edges of the known world to the centre of human life as Aragorn, king, is a profound one. Jesus is born in a backwater on the edges of empire, yet his kingship is revealed in the holy city of Jerusalem among great crowds of peoples. Aragorn is Isildur’s heir, and the last of the line to Elendil, High King of Arnor and Gondor. Jesus is the Christ, “the anointed one”, foretold by the prophets, and “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David” (Luke 1:32) .

In Lord of the Rings, Strider/Aragorn wants goodness to emerge in the world, and yet is very aware that this slow work requires patience with self, others and life itself. Jesus lived a hidden life from ages 12-30, when he learnt a trade, went to synagogue, and participated in the life of family and community. Transformation occurs quietly without anyone noticing. The preparation is all.

In LOTR, Gandalf the Grey is transformed after defeating the Balrog deep in the mines of Moria. His wisdom journey involved suffering, but he can smile with delight now. Jesus dies on Good Friday. The joy of his risen life invites us to joy also. He rises with the wounds intact.

In LOTR Gandalf arrives at Helms Deep at first light on the fifth day, bringing hope. Jesus rises to new life on the third day, bringing peace.

Lasting renewal

Now a further ten years on from that retreat, spiritual exercises continue to offer me renewal. Ultimately the mythic journeys present in the Lord of the Rings were used by God to direct me towards what Saint Ignatius named as “the service and praise of the divine majesty”. And so to fullness of life in God’s presence.

Leave a Comment

The wounded Ignatius responds to God’s call at Loyola

I delivered this talk for the Christian Life Community Asia Pacific online gathering for the start of the Ignatian year on Saturday 15 May 2021.

We start this Ignatian Year in the middle of a global pandemic. Like Ignatius in 1521, our lives have changed course this year. Just as for Ignatius, God is calling us through our experience.

Our beloved Ignatius was hit by a cannon ball 500 years ago this week, while leading his fellow soldiers into battle at Pamplona. Returning to his family home in Loyola to recover, his injuries confined him to a bedroom and he was reliant on the care of others. He asked for books to read: tales of soldiers like him who excelled in chivalry, power and glory. Ignatius accepted the only books available: The Lives of the Saints and The Life of Christ. He began to imagine and daydream over his desires for the future.

Ignatius’ active imagination left him feeling tired. However there was a difference between the two kinds of thoughts he experienced. The desires and dreams for personal glory with armour and romance gave him temporary delight which soon faded away. The desires and dreams toward giving service to God left him feeling deep satisfaction and joy for a long time.

God spoke to Ignatius through his experience. The reflective Ignatius discovered the movements of the heart which lead to God and away from God – his initial grasp of ‘the discernment of spirits’. As insight dawned, Ignatius listened deeply and so heard God’s call. He responded to this call with an open, generous and trusting heart.

The painful injury and long recovery gave Ignatius an opportunity to begin life again. Who he was, what life was for, and how God moved, could all be seen from a new perspective. Ignatius walked away from Loyola as a pilgrim.

This graced story of God at work through injury, pain, transformation and recovery can help us to live this time of pandemic. Pope Francis writes in Let us Dream: “A ‘stoppage’ can always be a good time for sifting, for reviewing the past, for remembering with gratitude who we are, what we have been given, and where we have gone astray. These are moments in life that can be ripe for change and conversion. Each of us has had their own “stoppage”, or if we haven’t yet, we will someday: illness, the failure of a marriage or a business, some great disappointment or betrayal. As in the COVID lockdown, those moments generate a tension, a crisis that reveals what is in our hearts.”

As with Ignatius’ experience, this pandemic has placed a stoppage on our former lives. We no longer travel to the same rhythms as before. We have been at home much more than usual, just like Ignatius at Loyola. Our communities and members have experienced pain, grief, lost jobs, upheaval for livelihoods, long lockdowns, family members contracting the virus, and the deaths of loved ones. Countless things have changed for us, some we do not understand. We have encountered our faith from a new perspective. Some CLC communities rightly describe this pandemic as a defining time in our lives.

In this meeting let us listen to God at work in our hearts. Let us open ourselves to hear God’s call. Let us reflect deeply and share with trust in each other.

We ask God our Lord for grace, that we may live this time with open and generous hearts. Saint Ignatius, pray for us!

Leave a Comment

Plenary Council hope all began with group communal discernment

The Spirit will surely move a new thing among the people gathered at the first session of the Plenary Council in nine days’ time. 278 delegates from around the country will meet online to discern ways forward for the Catholic Church in Australia. The Plenary process, begun by the bishops’ conference, kicked off in 2018 with an ambitious local level “communal discernment” project involving 222000 people.

Local and national groups

Each local group spent time in active listening and intentional speaking, discerning their responses to the question “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” 17500 submissions were prepared and a small team wrote a 300 page report “Listen to what the Spirit is saying”. Out of that report came six national themes for discernment.

What people talked about” in the phase 1 consultation.

Six “Discernment and Writing groups” formed in October 2019, to listen for the Spirit within a particular area of church life. This involved sitting with and sifting all the perspectives and experiences both at the grassroots and within each group.

Prayer (personal and communal) was essential. A second round of “Listening and Discernment” was happening concurrently at the local level. Hundreds of short submissions were then sent directly to the six national groups, who each prepared a 5000 word thematic paper. [Note: I was part of the Prayerful and Eucharistic group.]

Final preparations for the Plenary Council

Bringing it all together, a working document was drafted, and out of that formed the agenda questions across themes of ‘conversion, prayer, formation, structures, governance, institutions’.

The Plenary Council’s agenda questions.

The 278 delegates have been preparing via formation sessions since June. Most recently the expert advisers (‘periti’) to the Plenary Council have been named, from scripture scholars to legal minds, and church historians to social justice experts.

The fact that the Council is happening for me is a sign of hope, so I’m just going to let the Spirit emerge as we go and I’m not going there with any preconceived expectations, I’m just going into it ready for what comes. Everyone has different hopes from it, but I think if we just go into it, ready to take on the journey then I think it will be really good.

Plenary Council member

Prayers to the Holy Spirit

The delegates go to the Plenary Council asking the People of God in Australia to pray for and with them. I am reminded of the Christian Life Community Asia Pacific Assembly in Korea 2019. When a leader from the Animating Team called on the Holy Spirit with confidence, we then had five to ten minutes of quiet prayer, asking the Spirit to be with us in our conversations.

This moved me greatly, and I felt encouraged to a deeper trust in God’s Spirit moving among the community. The Spirit can speak through each person (through you, through me), in the spaces between us, and deep in each of our hearts:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth. 

Communal Discernment

The Plenary Council preparations have given the People of God in Australia an experience of “communal discernment”. This way seeks to follow the presence, movement and action of the Holy Spirit working within a group. It presupposes that each participant is discerning God’s presence, movement and action personally in their own life. As such the work of communal discernment draws deeply from the well of Ignatian Spirituality.

Nourished by the Scriptures and at Eucharist, we can ask for the grace to know where we are being drawn as a community. [At heart, we are drawn by God towards love and deeper into relationships, whereas we are driven to fear and mistrust by a contrary spirit.]

Together we can discern, as Jesuit John Dardis puts it “What’s the Trinity trying to do in the world today?” and then How can we best cooperate?

On the larger scale, this way of proceeding has been called “Synodality” within the Catholic Church. Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops have asked the global church to prepare for a 2023 synod looking deeper at this way. For Australia, at least, this path is being trod. May the work of the Plenary Council be fruitful.

Introduction to Spiritual Conversation, Jesuits Global
Plenary Council website:

Leave a Comment

Reading Charles Taylor on Augustine on the self

In Sources of the Self, philosopher Charles Taylor traces the Western sense of the self as it evolved from Plato to Augustine and on to today. Taylor’s chapter on Augustine moved me deeply; I read it three times.

For Plato, the centre for moral growth is attention. Taylor writes: “Facing the right field is what is decisive. We may have to struggle to rise to this, but the struggle is over the direction of our gaze.” For Augustine, growth occurs through love: “Everyone becomes like what s/he loves.” For both Plato and Augustine, the direction of our attention and love is very important. For Augustine, however, “it is love and not attention which is the ultimately deciding factor.”

In a significant development for Western thought, Augustine connects Plato’s light metaphors with John’s Gospel. “The light of God is not just ‘out there’, illuminating the order of being, as it is for Plato; it is also an ‘inner’ light. It is the light ‘which gives light to everyone that comes into the world’ (John 1:9).” This inner light is in being present to oneself, where we discover the freedom to experience and love. In this inner light we meet God who is truth. Taylor’s humour proves helpful: “We don’t have to jostle each other to get a good look or shove people aside to touch it, truth can be enjoyed by all together.”

According to Taylor, Augustine makes “the language of inwardness” compelling. Inwardness is the primary site of relationship between human beings and God. “In [our] inner self-presence, self-love … and self-affirmation” we reveal ourselves as the image of God. Augustine’s doctrine on “the intimacy of self-presence” as hallowed has “far-reaching consequences for the whole of Western culture.”

We are healed from self-centredness when we acknowledge our dependence on God the creator “in the intimacy of our own presence to ourselves.” Augustine writes: “Do not go outward; return within yourself. In the inward [human] dwells truth.” Taylor notes that “the stress on … the inward path, is not only for the benefit of intellectuals trying to prove the existence of God; the very essence of Christian piety is to sense this dependence of my inmost being on God … Augustine is always calling us within [because] inward lies the road to God.”

Reading Charles Taylor on Augustine on the self, I pause to reflect. Throughout my life in the Christian, Catholic and Ignatian traditions, we have often stressed seeking God in others. Indeed, at our most other-focused, Christian people have promoted a “forget about self, think of others” attitude. This approach can carve out a smaller place for our personal agency. It can confine our freedom as persons.

The “turn to the self” pursued by Augustine demonstrates a “radical reflexivity” in Taylor’s view. We go to the roots of human life when we meet our very self and reflect. Understanding personal feelings, reactions, motives and actions opens an encounter with this self as deep, present and active. In seeking the truths within, we encounter God.

In reflecting on all this, our first task becomes clear: to meet, reverence and love God’s presence within oneself. As Jesus announces, “the kingdom of God is within/among you” (Luke 17:21). Within me, within you, among us.

Next, we can love God, other persons and the entire creation. Taylor editorialises on Augustine’s invitation: “When it comes to God, the right measure is to love without measure …”

Leave a Comment

Have we forgotten that the terrorist is Australian?

The individual who killed 51 people at prayer in Christchurch Mosques on Friday 15 March 2019 is Australian. As Shakira Hussein wrote in The Saturday Paper on 12 December last year:

For me, and for many other Muslims living in Australia, the Christchurch attack has always felt like an Australian crime that happened to take place in Aotearoa…

There needs to be a moment of reckoning that the man behind the Christchurch massacre is an Australian. He was born here, and it was in this country that his hatred and racism developed at a young age.

Christchurch massacre: an Australian crime, The Saturday Paper, 12 December 2020

Hussein was reflecting on the crime soon after the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019 delivered a report to the New Zealand Governor General entitled Ko tō tātou kāinga tēnei: This is our home. In their end note the commissioners write “Out of the terrible events of the 15 March 2019 terrorist attack has come the responsibility to reflect and learn.” We in Australia must take time to reflect on the report’s findings, which deserve solemn and sober reading.

The terrorist was formed by life in Australia

Throughout their report, the commissioners describe the Australian terrorist as “the individual”. In a section entitled Part 4: The Terrorist, they outline the individual’s life trajectory “from childhood in Australia through to the terrorist attack in New Zealand.” The Report Summary observes:

The individual is a white Australian male who was 28 years old in March 2019. He displayed racist behaviour from a young age. His life experiences appear to have fuelled resentment and he became radicalised, forming extreme right-wing views about people he considered a threat. Eventually, he mobilised to violence.

The individual arrived in New Zealand on 17 August 2017. As an Australian, he was entitled to live in New Zealand. Within a few days of arrival, he moved to Dunedin and from this time, his life was largely devoted to planning and preparing for the terrorist attack.

The report tells a story of relevant aspects of the individual’s life and formation in Australia.

The individual … was twice dealt with by one of his high school teachers, who was also the Anti-Racism Contact Officer, in respect of anti-Semitism. This teacher described the individual as disengaged in class to the point of quiet arrogance, but also well-read and knowledgeable, particularly on certain topics such as the Second World War …

The individual told us that he began to think politically when he was about 12 and that his primary concerns have been about immigration, particularly by Muslim migrants into Western countries. In his manifesto he said that he had no complaints with ethnic people, if they remained in their places of birth. Those on the far right, particularly ethno-nationalists (as described in Part 2, chapter 5), sometimes assert similar views while disingenuously denying being racist. Aspects of the individual’s life are consistent with his description of his views.

Part 4 The Terrorist: Chapter 2 The individual’s upbringing in Australia

From far-right radicalisation to violence

The commissioners observe “the individual’s political thinking was far right in nature and showed many of the signs of ethno-nationalism”. Describing the process whereby a person moves from ‘radicalisation to violence’, they write:

Most people with extreme right-wing views do not act on these views through violence. The process through which people develop commitment to a particular extremist ideology is called radicalisation. The process through which an individual comes to see violence as a feasible tool to address their grievances is called radicalisation to violence ...

Radicalisation is almost universally acknowledged as a group phenomenon in which social relations and networks play a key role in preparing people to commit extremist violence. A person may come into contact with extremists in a multitude of ways, such as through existing networks of friends and family, public outreach by those involved in these groups or, increasingly, online engagement. When someone with generalised grievances comes into contact with individuals or groups who are able to provide a wider framework through which they can understand their grievances, extremist worldviews can be reinforced …

Participation in a group enables a range of processes that may facilitate the use of violence, including a solidifying of dehumanising thinking, an increased perception of crisis and belief in the use of violence as a legitimate tool.

Part 2 Context Chapter 5.4 Radicalisation to violence
From Part 2 Context Chapter 5 Harmful behaviours, right wing extremism and radicalisation

On 30 August 2020, a spokesperson for Australia’s domestic spy agency ASIO said “extreme right wing groups and individuals represent a serious, increasing and evolving threat to security” and the Christchurch attack was a “stark example of this”:

Unfortunately, extreme right wing groups are more organised, sophisticated and security conscious than before. These groups are becoming increasingly ideological; more aware of and committed to specific dogmas, philosophies and views, many of which support or glorify violence. They draw from a diverse variety of ideas and they are attracting a younger membership who display few overt signs of their extremist ideology.

Far-right radicalisation via the internet

In September 2020, ASIO Deputy Director-General Heather Cook “confirmed right-wing violent extremism now accounted for between 30 and 40 per cent of its current caseload in counter-terrorism work. This compared to between 10 and 15 per cent prior to 2016.” A report in the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Cook ‘saying the way in which extreme right-wing extremists were using the internet to recruit the “young and vulnerable” was similar to the methods deployed by Islamic State at its peak, adding the strategy was being used “to good effect”.’

Now one month after the violent insurrection at the United States Capitol, governments and media platforms are renewing their conversations about curtailing far-right extremism on the internet. The social media app “Parler” which hosted extremist views and conversations has been removed from Google, Apple and Amazon platforms.

In part 2 chapter 5.3, the commissioners observe the ways the internet has incubated far-right thinking:

One of the most notable changes in the right-wing extremist movement has been its movement from the streets to the internet. In previous decades, the extreme right-wing mostly organised on the streets in gangs or protest movements. Today, extremism has substantially, although not completely, moved from physical meetings and street activism to the internet and social media.

Part 2 Context Chapter 5.3 The nationalist far right, the radical right and the extreme right-wing

Social cohesion and safety for all

Violent far-right extremism is a volatile phenomenon which requires a whole-of-community response. The Royal Commission meditated at length on social cohesion as a factor which may protect against similar terrorist attacks in the future.

For the commissioners, social cohesion is “where people feel part of society, family and personal relationships are strong, differences among people are respected and people feel safe and supported by others.”

The commissioners found that social cohesion actively discourages far-right violence:

Social cohesion can contribute to preventing or countering extremism. This is because cohesive and resilient communities are better placed to resist and counter the risk of radicalisation and mobilisation to violent extremism and terrorism. Tolerant, and ideally inclusive, societies are more able to address and prevent the polarisation and disenfranchisement that can contribute to a rise in extremism. 

Part 9 Social cohesion and embracing diversity Chapter 1 Introduction

The commissioners invite the New Zealand public to conversation about social cohesion as a way to build a more robust democratic society where residents readily respect each and every community. Such a society guards against extremist violence.

These reflections have implications for all Australian governments, communities and residents. Australia certainly has a way to go before we may more universally hold together peacefully the values of diversity and democracy.

Here are some of the commission’s recommendations which should be read closely in Australia.

Australia-relevant report recommendations

Recommendation 4

We recommend that the Government:

Develop and implement a public facing strategy that addresses extremism and preventing, detecting and responding to current and emerging threats of violent extremism and terrorism …

Recommendation 15

We recommend that the Government:

Create opportunities to improve public understanding of extremism and preventing, detecting and responding to current and emerging threats of violent extremism and terrorism in New Zealand …

Recommendation 36

We recommend that the Government:

Invest in opportunities for young New Zealanders to learn about their role, rights and responsibilities and on the value of ethnic and religious diversity, inclusivity, conflict resolution, civic literacy and self-regulation.

Recommendation 40

We recommend that the Government:

Repeal section 131 of the Human Rights Act 1993 and insert a provision in the Crimes Act 1961 for an offence of inciting racial or religious disharmony, based on an intent to stir up, maintain or normalise hatred, through threatening, abusive or insulting communication with protected characteristics that include religious affiliation.

In the explainer prefiguring recommendation 40 from ‘Part 9 Chapter 4 Hate crime and hate speech’ a new offence was drafted: Every person commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years who:

  1. with intent to stir up, maintain or normalise hatred against any group of persons in New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins or religion of that group of persons; and
  2. says or otherwise publishes or communicates any words or material that explicitly or implicitly calls for violence against or is otherwise, threatening, abusive, or insulting to such group of persons.


The findings and recommendations of the New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019 should give us pause. I encourage Australians reading this post to read the report. As the neighbouring nation whose communities shaped this terrorist, we must be willing to read, learn, and be changed by what we learn.

We who are seek to build peace do well to reflect carefully on the causes of violence, and consider what happened in this case. After reading the parts of the report I was drawn to, I am engaged in the following questions:

  • Are our communities capable of stopping persons who are radicalising before they turn to violence?
  • What strategies do we have to redirect such persons and their energies?
  • Do our cities, schools, workplaces, sporting clubs and communities truly value diversity and difference?
  • What will we do to build a more robust democracy which is confidently pluralist in nature?

We can all contribute to building communities which embrace difference, nourish respect, encourage mutuality, and build solidarity among all. Our responsibility to the common good demands no less.

Leave a Comment

Big sky Canberra meets native white gold grasses and a family of trees

The bright blue expanse of day is set against a hill of native grasses. Each plant’s leaf sheaths and spikelets shimmer like white gold. Motionless waves of flowering stalks stand upright and tall, awns curved out and away to absorb the sunlight.

A small family of trees rises over the crisp coastline of blue and gold. These brave trees reach out as neighbours to the thick hillside of grass. They reach up as sailors, ready to push out onto that glorious still calm ocean of sky.

In the cool of evening, the sky takes on a cooler blue. Native grasses move to a quiet breeze. The leaf sheaths and spikelets are a darker gold in the nighttime sun, this entire hillside a great fortune of grass. Long may the lawnmowers fall silent.

Four confident trees rise above the sun-soaked tussock. Branches of bold green leaves reach up towards light, drawn by the promise of sky.

Meanwhile the affectionate dog at my feet is filled with joy.


I see you offering great hospitality to me

In this reflection, I write a memory from today through one of my senses: eyesight.

Walking through the Belconnen shops, I was looking for a cafe that would serve breakfast early. I “checked in” to one and met the waitstaff’s smile. We exchanged a few words and soon she returned with a feast set for a weary traveller, colours and textures all before me. This host was attentive and helpful and kind. I paid for the meal and exchanged greetings. I left and walked into “a lovely day”.

I went searching for noodles

At the fruit shop, aisles laden with produce, meat out the back, I went searching for noodles. My ALDI trolley conspicuous, my mind conscious of the load I carried, I nearly left, but something about the array of vegetables, the rich welcome of the delicacies, the chance my list could be filled, kept me there. The noodles, rice ones, were in a stand at the back, pointed out by a staff member in the black nondescript clothes of the store. A minister of service, this perfect stranger showed me warmth and psillium husk and orange juice “99% oranges”.

Leave a Comment