15 March 2019: An insane terrorist attack in two mosques left 50 people dead and several others injured during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand. As I write this post, cars are still parked outside the mosques where the dead had gone to pray. Who can console the families who lost their near and dear ones? We can only pray for them.
However, Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand won everyone’s hearts the way she responded to the situation. In her actions, there are five lessons for leaders from around the world:
• Communicate clearly: Jacinda’s communication was clear. She described the atrocity as a terrorist attack. It is important not to beat around the bush and call it what it was.
• Show that you care: Jacinda demonstrated a genuine concern. She symbolized her country’s values of peace and inclusiveness. She hugged family members of victims the way a family member would hug. The following Friday, the national flag was seen at half-mast near the mosques; a two-minute silence was observed; and the Islamic call of prayer was broadcast on national TV and radio. There was no politics there, no photo opportunities. The pain on her face was there for all to see.
• Take action: Jacinda wasted no time in taking action and banning military style semi-automatic weapons. She intends to put in place an overhaul of gun laws by the 11 April.
• Stop the hatred: The world was shocked as the attack got live streamed on the Facebook and other platforms. Jacinda didn’t let it pass. She has decided to work with other countries on holding social media companies accountable for letting this happen. Several companies withdrew their advertisements from social media platforms.
• Demonstrate solidarity: The best expression of solidarity is in actions. Jacinda wore a black headscarf. Women across New Zealand, including those in the police force, wore headscarves in a show of support for the Muslim community. “I wore hijab because I felt it was the right thing to do. It gave people a sense of security. I am pleased I did that because it is my job to make people feel safe and secure,” said Jacinda Ardern in one of her recent interviews. I hope leaders from around the world will learn a lesson or two, including those who have unnecessarily banned the use of heardscarf in their countries or in the process of doing so.
The attacker wanted to divide but Jacinda managed to keep the nation united. And this is the greatest achievement of her leadership in a moment of crisis. Thank you, Jacinda! You are an inspiration.