New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern embraces muslim woman surrounded by crowd

Our world is obsessed with ‘other’ and ‘differences’, to the point that many make it their sole obligation to rid society of people who seemingly don’t belong. Recent differences in opinion over subjects like Brexit have caused division, ultimately leading to nowhere. This, alongside conflicts over religious beliefs and sexuality, serves to do two things: cause anger and increase the divide. If we take a look throughout history, many of those who have suffered due to their ‘otherness’ did so at the hands of people unable to just let them be.

It is therefore important to look inward. No matter how liberal we consider ourselves, we’re still capable of narrow-mindedness and even personal prejudices. You can’t change others, let alone change their actions, but it’s still possible to conduct yourself in a respectful way. Which brings us swiftly onto this lady...

Jacinda Elizabeth Ardern

You have to admire the Prime Minister of New Zealand’s response to the Christchurch terrorist attack. The world was taken aback by the compassion and support she showed the victims of a shooting at the Al Noor Mosque, which killed 41 people. Ardern not only condemned the attack but acted swiftly; by addressing gun laws and promising to cover the victim’s funeral costs. New Zealand’s parliament has now passed a bill to ban weapons like those used in this attack.

Furthermore, she visited the victims wearing a hijab, showing utmost respect and solidarity to the Muslim community; unthinkable when you think of most politicians. She doesn’t wear a hijab every day, but in doing so, she has united New Zealand under devastating circumstances. This symbolizes openness and the possibility of coexistence. For many that have lost their faith in politicians, she represents a beacon of hope with humanity and decency.

Jacinda Ardern also recently received adoration for helping out a mother-of-two struggling with her children in a supermarket. The woman had forgotten her purse, so Ardern paid for her shopping. OK, so she probably isn’t the only politician to have helped a member of the public in a supermarket, but her recent actions suggest she is genuinely compassionate; she considers people equals rather than focussing on their differences. Although it is important to remember she is a politician with certain agendas, she’s certainly sending out the right message.

Why is it still important?

Never has it been more important to cast differences aside in making the world a better place to be. The Sultan of Brunei’s move to make gay sex punishable by stoning to death is just one example of intolerance in certain communities. The small South East Asian country’s leader shows he prioritises conservative religious practices over human rights, causing an international outcry.

Ultimately, we all have to embrace difference regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs or any of the other multitude of things that make each of us unique. Ignorance only leads to intolerance, and intolerance to hatred, which ultimately ends in suffering. If we can all learn to respect one another and embrace our differences, we can relish in this and enjoy the wonder that is diversity.