Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been commended around the world for her strong yet compassionate handling of the New Zealand mass shooting, and her remarks after the tragedy were a refreshing change from the vacillations of other world leaders faced with similar incidents of hate and violence.
Following the brutal slaying of 50 Muslims by fitness trainer Brenton Tarrant at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, Ardern addressed the media the same evening, in what became a highly circulated and acclaimed address, which included the words, "We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. And amongst that diversity we share common values. And the one that we place the currency on right now is our compassion and support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy. And secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this. You may have chosen us – we utterly reject and condemn you."
On Saturday, when Ardern visited members of the Muslim community in Christchurch, she demonstrated that unity in diversity, donned in a somber black headscarf as she interacted with the injured, the relatives of those killed, and others. "This is not New Zealand. The only part of the incident we have seen over the past 24 to 36 hours that is New Zealand is the support that you are seeing now," she said.
While Ardern concentrated on comforting the bereaved, instead of making it a photo-op, one particular picture taken by Christchurch council photographer Kirk Hargreaves has gone viral around the world, and has become an encapsulation of the effect of the killings on the otherwise peaceful nation of New Zealand. Hargreaves took a picture of Ardern from outside the community hall where she was visiting with members of Christchurch's Muslim community, and the genuine sorrow in her eyes along with the concern on her face touched everyone who saw the picture.
The grief in her eyes is real. That’s what women are made of - compassion and kindness. They grieve for others like they do for themselves. Love. #JacindaArden pic.twitter.com/gDettaGZke— Shehryar Khanum (@shehryar_khanum) March 16, 2019
The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Hargreaves as saying, "The moment I saw her face pop up, and what was happening with the flowers, I fully knew [it was important]. It's a religious photo in a way, a photo of a mix of religious symbolism. It looks like stain glass, there's the Muslim hijab, and colours of Hindu religion. It's a universal picture."
"The human empathy and all those amazing human traits she's showing in the picture, I'm glad people resonated with that," he added.
Mayor @LianneDalziel and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have met with members of the Muslim community this afternoon to offer their support.They have also met with families of those killed in Friday’s mosque shootings.Read more: https://t.co/QUwXxUQQtr pic.twitter.com/VberzPIT8h— ChCh City Council (@ChristchurchCC) March 16, 2019