On the night of the shootings: A prayer for Christchurch

The unspeakable evil of the day when lives were stolen. 

As we reel from the shocking events at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, we can only ache for and mourn the victims of these terrible murders in Christchurch.

That poor benighted place has been the scene of so much devastation this decade. First earthquakes, then fires and now this: the sick-making spectacle of terrorism on a scale the likes of which these islands have never before seen.

So many lives stolen. The killing of one person is bad enough. The slaying of dozens, with who knows how many injured, has left the country dazed and bewildered.

What these murderers have done is unspeakably evil. That seems like such a small, inadequate word given the enormity of their crimes. And yet, whatever explanations are offered, whoever else is held culpable, the fact remains that the atrocities came down, in those instant moments, to willing actors freely choosing to kill another human being.

Then another. And another. And another. On and on they went, killing in cold blood without pity or remorse. Each pull of the trigger aimed to extinguish another irreplaceable human being.

So many fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, cousins, friends, co-workers and neighbours scratched from this earthly existence over the course of so few moments. Each one of them leaving behind scars that never fully heal. Either the perpetrators were so twisted by their hatred that they couldn't see this, or they knew it and didn't care. I honestly don't know which would be worse.

It just boggles the mind that people could have such blackened hearts. People's sorry history of senseless violence offers few comforts on the subject. 

It is hardly the most fashionable thing to say, but so many New Zealanders will be doing a lot of praying over the next few days. And while that may seem like a pathetic reaction to a lot of people, we at least know that many of the victims would have understood. God help the souls of the victims - and those who remain.