"Christchurch....is that a Holy City, Some Kind of Spiritual Place?"- U.S Syndicated Radio Host, 2017
Sun, 17 Mar 2019
Image of Hagley Park By I, Greg O'Beirne, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3946661
[FILM] 1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al Haytham (English Version)
Ibn Al-Haytham (Alhazen) - Optics: The True Nature of Light | by Jim Al-Khalili (EN)
St. Francis meets Sultan Malik al-Kamil (2019 is the 800th Anniversary) - A Muslim Perspective
Resurrecting, sung at the exact time my father, Kenneth Greenwell, passed away in Greymouth, 5.30 pm, 17 April, 2016. I was a guest of a friend in Christchurch, urgently en route to get to my father. I was attending a service with my host at Arise Church, Christchurch, when my father departed.
"Let us Unite, People of the Four Winds,
Consolidate our Aspirations,
Bind them Together with Love,
With the Power of God's Blessing
To Benefit All Mankind, To Benefit All Mankind."
Dame Whina Cooper (1895-1994),
Te Whaea o te Motu ("Mother of the Nation")
The website, Way to Australia and Beyond, describes Christchurch as not only New Zealand's most English city, but the "most English of cities outside England", named after the college of Christ Church at Oxford University.
Words fail to describe thoughts and feelings of the profound shock in processing what happened in Christchurch on 15 March 2019, as we chart a way forward as citizens, as a community, as a country, as a civilisation connected globally.
2019 is the 800th Anniversary of the Meeting between St Francis of Assisi and Sultan Al-Kamil (1219), advocating peace during the religious wars of the crusades.
Two weeks ago, in the spirit of that milestone, my group received an invitation to an upcoming Symposium on the role of Religion in Reconciliation (April). The symposium will be run by the only Christian-initiated interfaith centre in the world that formally partners with an Islamic government.
Although most of our group are not able to travel to the country concerned in time, we have prepared written submissions.
In reply, I referred to the Golden Age of Islam. The work of Alhazen, as related in the above video link by Jim Al-Khalili, physics professor at the University of Surrey, inspired the work of Leonardo da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton centuries later.
In another video link provided above, the late Omar Sharif, in his final film role, also shares the close connection between Islam, science and scholarship.
In 2017, I was speaking with an American syndicated radio host about the Christchurch earthquake of 2011. We discussed how the city's rebuild and recovery had an important role in the economic, cultural, and social destiny of New Zealand.
The radio host's response intrigued me, "Christchurch....is that a Holy City, Some Kind of Spiritual Place?"
I answered affirmatively. Each of the four occasions for my visits to Christchurch, since 1994, were important and significant, on so many levels.
Most respectfully, I share each experience, reflecting a deep connection to Christchurch.
For me, Christchurch now resonates all the more in heeding Our Mother of the Nation's call for unity in New Zealand and beyond.
1) Music Industry Hui (assembly) at Nga Hau e Wha National Marae, Christchurch, 1994:
Palmerston North is home to The Stomach, once New Zealand's least-expensive eight-track recording studio, seen back then as a "drop-in centre" for alternative and angry musicians. I saw it as a City Council-funded resource from which to record music made by people from all over town -"community-based music". As a result, I was invited to the hui where the guest of honour was the organiser of a major North American music festival from Canada. He and I were the only two non-Maori who stayed and slept on the Marae for three nights. Key figures from New Zealand's music industry attended and spoke at the hui throughout that time. It was a personal and national milestone for music, Maori culture and spirituality.
2) Visit to Trade Aid National Education Unit and Meeting with the late Rod Donald, Trade Aid Manager and Green Party Co-Leader, Christchurch, 1995.
In Palmerston North, I was appointed as inaugural Trade Aid education officer. My duties involved visiting primary, secondary and intermediate schools to discuss fair trade and why people should purchase from Trade Aid stores.
The Trade Aid movement/store chain was founded by Vi and Richard Cottrell in Christchurch. As related by Sally Blundell in The New Zealand Listener 17 December, 2012:
"New Zealand boasts the world’s highest per-capita sales of fair-trade craft, and behind it all is a Kiwi woman (Vi Cottrell) who’s become part of a worldwide movement.....Richard invited eight people, four from the business sector and four from local development agencies, to set up an independent company to 'trade with underdeveloped countries and so support the work of self-help organisations through long-term trading relationships'....Trade is the best form of aid...a nationwide chain of 29 shops selling craft and food items on behalf of thousands of farmers and craft artisans in 30 countries."
I spent just under a week in Christchurch preparing my lesson plans, and met with then Trade Aid national manager, the late Rod Donald, who praised "the large catchment area" of my planned school outreach. Mr Donald's concurrent role as Green Party co-leader saw him elected to Parliament the following year in the country's first Mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation elections. Mr Donald was also a pivotal figure in the reform of New Zealand's electoral system.
3) Meeting with Government Officials to Discuss Investment in the Canterbury Rebuild After the Earthquake, Christchurch, 2014.
I'd spent a year researching foreign investment opportunities for New Zealand, under contract to a group "with unlimited funds". At my request, a comprehensive draft paper "setting out potential areas for investment in the Christchurch rebuild" was kindly prepared and sent to me from New Zealand's most prominent public law firm, on 13 September, 2013.
The law firm concerned gathered material from Canterbury's most authoritative agencies. That led to an investment offer of a minimum 1 billion USD, from an American investment banker, to the NZ Government on 17 December, 2013.
I then visited Christchurch to discuss this and other investment possibilities with government officials, on the morning 4 July, 2014. The meeting was facilitated by the Hon. Gerry Brownlee, then Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery.
Later that afternoon, I attended a meeting with a government minister, where my business contact discussed the setting up of an international marketplace for migrants and ethnic groups in Christchurch.
Throughout that day, I met members of the local Islamic community. That memory now strikes a poignant chord.
Yet the ease of exchanges between government officials and diverse groups, on that one day alone, struck me as Christchurch being one large community - poised to become even greater in the face of unspeakable challenge.
The 1 billion+ USD investment did not materialise - too much, too soon, for one single intermediary; for others - maybe not as familiar with the process as they let on.
However, the identification of "infrastructure deficits" in New Zealand, with the increased funding for those deficits, have since been publicised much more widely.
Not only did that experience lead to what one World Bank expert called " talking with the world's best financial advisers", but it also led to a lasting friendship with my business contact - who was with me in Christchurch at the exact moment my father died.
4) The Passing of my Father, Kenneth Greenwell, while I was en route to see him in Grey Hospital, Greymouth. Christchurch, 2016.
I made the urgent visit from Palmerston North to Greymouth upon hearing of the rapid decline in my father's health. My friend in Christchurch, at very short notice, greatly assisted my stopover.
When I was in Christchurch in 2014, I commented to the government minister that although I was last there twenty years ago, the reasons for each visit were as unique and fascinating as ever.
My unexpected return to Christchurch was different from my three earlier visits. I travelled from Christchurch to Greymouth, one side of the South Island to the other, by rail, on the TranzAlpine Express.
I was informed of my father's passing by his doctor, at the hospital, the day after he passed,
Yet the fact that I was in Christchurch at the exact moment my father passed away means that Christchurch is, to me, a Holy City, Some Kind of Spiritual Place.
When my father died, I was in a place of worship, Arise Church, as a guest. I later asked one of the pastors what the congregation was singing at 5.30 pm, Sunday 17 April 2016, and was told the song was Resurrecting.
In returning to the message of Dame Whina Cooper, for all people here in New Zealand, of every creed and race:
May we all, as a community, as a country, realise the words of Resurrecting and "rise from the ashes of defeat to declare the victory."
Peace and blessings to all.
17 March, 2019, New Zealand.