Two years ago, on this day, 51 visitors to a Christchurch mosque were gunned down by Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old white supremacist and Australian national, making the massacre the worst such atrocity in the history of New Zealand. Forty worshippers were injured in the attack including children. World leaders joined Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in condemning the attack as New Zealand’s “darkest day”. The attack has been linked to the ongoing rise in global right-wing extremism and white supremacy as Tarrant confessed to being “inspired” by Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist terrorist who massacred over 75 young people near Oslo.
As the world commemorates this ghastly act of terror today, several instances of mass killings inspired by white supremacist ideology have taken place primarily in the United States and Europe since 2019, bringing the focus not only to the rise of the alt-right as an interconnected, global tendency but also to gun violence and mental health. Tarrant had live-streamed the first part of the shootings on Facebook and subsequently published a right-wing online manifesto, exemplifying the fast-growing presence of white supremacist and alt-right social media and dark web bulletin boards such as 4chan and Reddit.
Speaking at a memorial service held to remember those who were brutally killed, Prime Minister Ardern reached out to the Muslim community by saying “Much has been said, but words — despite their healing power — will never change what happened that day…But while words cannot perform miracles, they do have the power to heal”. Soon after the attacks, New Zealand had passed laws banning the sale and use of semiautomatic weapons. In 2020, Tarrant pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and one count of terrorism and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.