Facebook Twitter

When ‘Jacindamania’ and President Nelson’s South Pacific ministry tour crossed paths to stop hate

SHARE When ‘Jacindamania’ and President Nelson’s South Pacific ministry tour crossed paths to stop hate
President Russell M. Nelson meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden in Wellington, New Zealand, on May 20, 2019.

President Russell M. Nelson meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden in Wellington, New Zealand, on May 20, 2019.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Two months after a gunman livestreamed his hate-fueled murders of 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the nation’s popular young leader, Jacinda Ardern, hosted a visit from President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Both leaders were working to combat the hate expressed in the attacks.

Ardern led an ongoing international effort dubbed the Christchurch Call, a partnership of 55 countries including the United States with 12 online service providers (including Amazon, Google, Meta, Twitter and Zoom) to “eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.”

Her success bringing together tech giants and heads of state was a “blinder,” a New Zealand term for an excellent performance in sports or elsewhere. It added to “Jacindamania,” the broad appeal earned at home and abroad by Ardern, who gave birth in office and wore a hijab in solidarity with the shooter’s Muslim victims after the attack.

President Nelson announced the Church of Jesus Christ was providing $100,000 to the mosques.

Adeeb Sami holds tasbeeh counting beads as he stands in the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, in May 2019.

Adeeb Sami holds tasbeeh counting beads as he stands in the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

That meeting took place in May 2019 during President Nelson’s ministry to New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti and Australia. I covered the tour and asked President Nelson about his impressions of the Prime Minister after their meeting at the Parliament building known as “the Beehive” in Wellington.

“She’s courageous,” President Nelson said after he met Ardern. “The world will discover they’ve got a real leader here. It’s an unlikely scenario, a young mother leading a great nation, a peacemaker, a policymaker, a consensus-builder. We’re very confident she’ll have a great future.”

This week, their leadership again is in the news. Ardern announced that she is stepping down as Prime Minister because “I have no more in the tank.” President Nelson completed his fifth year as church president.

After they met, I stepped away to visit Christchurch and report from the mosques where violence spurred both leaders to take action.

There I met the man who confronted the killer.

Abdul Aziz told me that all he had to fight with the heavily armed mass murderer was a small credit card machine. Aziz chased the shooter up a long driveway away from the mosque, then threw the card reader at the killer.

Abdul Aziz talks about how a gunman shot through the window at the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Abdul Aziz talks about a gunman outside the window as he describes shootings at the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

The brave act distracted the gunman, who shot at Aziz but then left.

“The coward wanted to divide us,” Aziz said, “but he only united us more and more. I wish all the world was united like we are here now. At the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters. We are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. We are the same.”