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Terror in Christchurch: Here comes the ‘Peace Train’

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On 15 March 2019, a white supremacist gunman shot dead 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, Aotearoa, New Zealand. His actions changed forever the safe haven known as ‘God’s Own’. New Zealanders were shocked that such an event had happened here. Many Kiwis believed the nation to be safe, given its geographic isolation from the terrorist targets of Europe and the United States of America. However, the atrocity has exposed an unhealthy underbelly that has long permeated New Zealand’s socio-culture. Racism and discrimination have forefronted ensuing conversations. This article explores the nation’s history of discrimination preceding the terrorist attack. In doing so, we expose something subtly denied: that New Zealand is not the egalitarian land of milk and honey that many Kiwis believed it to be. We suggest that the terrorist attack not only highlighted the nation’s discrimination but also provided its liminal moment. Part of that liminality was Cat/Yusuf Steven’s performance, in Christchurch, of ‘Peace Train’. We compound our exploration of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history of discrimination by asking how the lyrics of ‘Peace Train’ provide a way to view our past and provide an opportunity to perceive a way forward for the nation, given the tragedy of terrorism. We suggest that ‘Peace Train’ is a metaphorical illumination of the nation’s liminality, and that it provided a road map of unity that helped to guide many Kiwis in understanding and coming to terms with not only what had happened but also a future view of how Kiwis might see themselves.
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Keywords: Christchurch; Kiwi; New Zealand; peace train; terrorism; terrorist attack

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Auckland University of Technology

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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