Statement on New Zealand terrorist attacks

As the world continues to sort through the horrific mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand today that killed at least 49 people and injured dozens more, we want to add our voice to the crush of ongoing conversations. Particularly, we are asking for the public to consider two thoughts.

First, we must recognize that white supremacy ideology is a global issue, and that its threat requires an international response. While nearly all domestic extremist murders in the United States last year were committed by the violent far-right, the reality is that nations across the world have come under attack by it. We can no longer approach this as a political anomaly. 

Whatever discord we view at that level is really just a symptom of problems that have been festering for decades. Friday’s shootings underscore a host of issues that we as a nation, and as a world of nations, have been struggling to confront, including the proliferation of white supremacy ideology, domestic terrorism, gun access, and hate speech on social media.

Secondly, we urge the world to support the many men and women who have escaped lives of hatred and have successfully left behind hate groups. Research tells us that racist ideology is often not the only precursor to membership to a hate group. What that tells us is that many people join these groups, even tangentially, for a host of other reasons. Formers today can help us untangle this complexity for others tomorrow. 

“There are people out here who care about this, who want to see this stop, who want to bring healing to these communities,” said Sammy Rangel, executive director of Life After Hate. “And some of us are formers. 

“There is hope. People can change. Even from the darkest days. It’s only through compassion and forgiveness that a former can become a former.”