She has sought to become the national healer, and the country is following her lead.
Less than a week after a gunman killed 50 people inside two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the eyes of the world have focused on the country’s leader as she has sought to unify her reeling country.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for a global fight against racism, said that her government will examine what role social media played in the carnage, and on Thursday announced a ban on semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles, the kinds of arms the suspect used in the attack. As if following the lead of the prime minister, New Zealanders publicly consoled one another, will stand for two minutes of silence on Friday, and will broadcast the Islamic call to prayer across the nation.
For those bombarded into numbness by headlines in the United States, which is convulsed by partisan politics, or Britain, paralyzed over Brexit, New Zealand’s response has been marked for the unity it has sought to foster. Beyond policy prescriptions, local communities have honored the dead while Ardern has taken on the role of national healer, visiting the mosques concerned; stopping for long, emotional hugs with the grieving; and admitting her own struggles along the way. On Wednesday, for example, she visited a school that lost two pupils in the shootings. A student raised her hand and asked Ardern the one question the prime minister had not yet been publicly asked: “How are you?”