My wife, Gena, and my hearts were broken when we heard about Friday’s massacre of 50 precious souls (including children) in Christchurch, New Zealand. We have so many friends and fans in countries all over the world, and our most heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to everyone in New Zealand and especially the victims’ families and friends.
Fifty people were brutally murdered, and at least the same number was injured in the attack on two Christchurch mosques. Officials said the patients range from young children to elderly, and the injuries range from minor to critical.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shared that the victims were from a host of countries, including Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Syria, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Jordan.
With that international makeup, it brought me back to 9/11 and the host of people from roughly 90 countries that were killed in the attack. I’m certainly not trying to compare the magnitudes of America’s 9/11 with the New Zealand massacre. There are of course a host of differences, including that Muslim extremists attacked us on 9/11, and Muslims were the ones attacked in Christchurch.
However, there are at least a few similarities worth noting with the 9/11 attacks and pre-9/11 American culture. Prior to the attack, New Zealand has largely been immune from terrorist attacks; it has been a safe haven for peoples from all countries. Young extremists carried out the barbaric killings. There were many victims from many countries. And while the New Zealand government has had little need to ramp up its homeland security in recent years, it likely will after this, and maybe a lot.
Fox News reported, “Mass shootings in New Zealand are rare. Before Friday’s attack, the deadliest shooting in modern history there occurred in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when gunman David Gray shot and killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.”
Even Wikipedia’s article on “Terrorism in New Zealand” begins with the two sentences: “New Zealand has experienced few terrorist incidents in its short history and the threat is generally regarded as very low. However, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has warned against complacency.” (Doesn’t that sound like pre-9/11 America?)
In fact, New Zealand’s only major piece of terrorist-related legislation is the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 which strengthened the government’s counter-terrorism measures and powers, and was introduced in response to the U.S. terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Prime Minister Ardern was correct when she said about the massacre’s 28-year old parasitic murderer: “This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days. These are people who I would describe as having extremist views, that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.”
However, Ardern also knows that terrorist thugs like the one who just stole the life out of 50 precious souls and their families are not going to disappear by themself. In fact, the truth is, they are going to increase in the dark side of social media and look for further opportunities to invoke their murderous mayhem. That’s why it’s up to us to do more to prevent further mass shootings and other terrorist acts.
Bottom line, New Zealand’s mosque massacre may serve in some respects as their 9/11, if it prompts them to better equip themselves to thwart such tragedies. Let’s hope and pray it doesn’t take any further terrorist actions to awaken any complacency on behalf of its government and citizens to embolden their security and safety measures. That means New Zealand’s government should do more to help private citizens and organizations better protect and defend themselves from intruders than the country’s current security legislation and firearm laws allow.
Remember, reducing the number of guns or increasing rigid gun regulation laws will not reduce massacres, and there’s global evidence to prove it. Dana Loesch, who has researched the issue of guns and violent crimes around the world and documented it in her outstanding book, “Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America,” explained two critical facts:
- Fewer guns don’t equate to fewer violent crimes. Loesch explained: “Honduras has 21 times the gun murders that we do and 14 times fewer guns.” End of argument.
- Stricter gun laws don’t equate to fewer violent crimes. Proof for that is found in the 2015 Charleston AME Church shooting. Loesch again elaborated: “In South Carolina, all you have to do is be charged with a felony to be declared illegitimate to carry [a firearm], which [the shooter] was in February of 2015. He was charged with a felony for drug possession. It was methamphetamines and cocaine. His father purchased a firearm for him for his 21st birthday, April 4, 2015. That could have been a straw man purchase, which is also a felony. He reportedly told someone that he stole the gun that he used in these murders. That’s also a felony. Felony, felony, felony.” No increase of gun regulation or laws stopped him from obtaining a gun, just as in the case of Sandy Hook tragedy or the Santa Fe high school shooting. It’s often been said and is true: The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, as shown through the heroic and courageous deeds of the neighbor of the Sutherland Church massacre.
New Zealand isn’t alone in its heartache. In the U.S., violent crime has greatly escalated in faith-based organizations, as we’ve also seen it increase on military bases, schools, entertainment venues and elsewhere.
According to Carl Chinn, president of the Faith Based Security Network, a member-owned non-profit association dedicated to improving the safety of faith-based communities across the U.S. (now in 34 states and in Washington D.C.): “Prior to 1963 [in the U.S.], there had never been a mass murder (4 or more dead from any one attack) associated with a faith-based property.”
But check out these growing statistics: By the early-2000s, there were roughly 10 violent crimes in faith-based organizations across the U.S. each year. In 2007, there were 41 incidents. In 2009, there were 108. In 2012, there were more than 139. In 2013, there were 132. In 2014, there were 176. In 2015, there were 248. In 2016, there were 246. In 2017, there were 261, including 118 violent deaths (homicides, suicides and killed in action). As we wait on 2018 stats, we can only imagine they too will increase.
Forget the numbers for a moment. We all know it only takes one murder in sacred places to change our world, especially if it’s in our own family, circle of friends or sanctuary.
Waking up and discovering the world is not as nice and safe as you expected is always a colossal paradigm shift, especially when tragedy has provoked the enlightenment. It’s true for a nation or a neighborhood, and a church or a mosque.
It’s one of few times I’ve agreed with former President Obama when he said after the 2015 AME Church shooting in Charleston, North Carolina: “There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.”
That is why I have a challenge for pastors, priests, rabbis, Imams, Mullahs and other religious leaders. With all due respect, it’s about time that we all woke up to the idea that providing for and protecting God’s flock means increasing congregational security, from children’s classes to main sanctuaries and fellowship halls.
Faith is not an excuse to bypass self-defense. That’s not my original idea or position. It’s found in the Good Book.
As one verse says in the Jewish Scriptures: “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (Nehemiah 4:9). “Prayed and posted” should be our highest dual marching orders.
Even Jesus said when instructing His disciples near the end of his own earthly life: “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36)
It reminds me of the sign near the front door of my Texas ranch. It has an engraved picture of a gun with the words next to it: “We don’t call 911.” Maybe it’s time a few churches, synagogues or mosques post a similar sign at their entrances, too.
Of course, I realize there’s much more to congregational safety than posting guards or bearing arms. As Carl Chinn explained: “I have never allowed the message to be wrapped around that axle. I believe in our right to defend ourselves with a gun. When it comes to defending others, I believe in that as well, but strongly believe there should be training for that level of protection. A conceal carry license should not be the only affirmation of one’s ability to protect others in a deadly force situation. … To have folks who are intentionally ready is the best thing any organization can do.”
Believe it or not, our government will even help provide houses of worship with free personalized threat assessments. No joke! There are more than 75 state threat assessment (fusion) centers across our country, started post-9/11 under President George W. Bush to better equip and protect our citizens. In fact, veterans are often employed by these fusion centers. If the leaders of your church or synagogue want a free personalized report, please locate the contact information for your state’s threat assessment center onthe Department of Homeland Security website.
Most of all, whether we’re talking about global terrorists or domestic criminals, we must never give in to their intimidation and fear, or allow them to restrict our thoughts, freedoms and actions. Indeed, congregants everywhere need to remember and remind one another that houses of worship remain some of the safest places on the planet.
Here’s how your sanctuary safety measures up to other stats, according to Christianity Today:
- The chance you will die in the next 12 months from an injury are about 1 in 1,681
- In a car accident, the odds are 1 in 6,539
- In a plane crash, 1 in 502,554
- From a hornet, wasp or bee sting, 1 in 3,615,940
- From a lightning strike, 1 in 6,177,230
- From church violence, 1 in 18,393,327
So don’t hesitate or even flinch to enjoy and participate in weekly sacred services, especially during this upcoming Easter or Passover season. In fact, researchers presented during a recent American Psychological Association Convention how faith and church can actually help mass shooting survivors.
Please share this important column on your social media and with your faith-based leaders and friends to help others continue to fight the good fight of faith.
(For further help or additional resources, check out Carl Chinn’s website, his Faith-Based Security Network, and his book, “Evil Invades Sanctuary,” chapter four of which provides sound guidance on setting up a faith-based safety and security operation. You can also hear Carl live at one of his many faith-based security-building speaking and conference events across the country. Another great book and DVD is “Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self Defense,” which details how one person saved many lives in a congregation gathered in prayer.)