Foreign Policy Digital

Christchurch Has Seen Trauma Before—Just Not Like This

The quiet New Zealand city has endured natural disaster. But until March 15, it had never faced an unnatural one.

The mass shooter was right about one thing. Christchurch, New Zealand, is a pretty cut-off part of the world. Until this week it had enjoyed low levels of gun violence, no domestic experience of transnational terror, and an often polite style of politics.

On the morning of March 15, passengers could have boarded a domestic flight in Christchurch with a full tube of toothpaste and kept their shoes on at security checkpoints.

But the man charged with murder in Friday’s mosque shootings, a white supremacist who wrote in his manifesto that he wanted to commit atrocities in New Zealand’s South Island to show there is nonwhite immigration even in remote parts of the world, was wrong about so much else—in particular his vicious implication that Christchurchers couldn’t handle the trauma he was about to inflict on them.

The opposite is true. Since massive earthquakes reshaped the region and killed 185 people in

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