The Guardian

With respect: how Jacinda Ardern showed the world what a leader should be

Her empathy for the survivors of the Christchurch shooting, her swift implementation of practical measures and her refusal to be sucked into anti-Islamic rhetoric provide a lesson other countries should follow
Jacinda Ardern consoles a woman as she visited Kilbirnie Mosque, in Wellington after the Christchurch shooting. Photograph: AP

There was something both comforting and distressing about the way the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, consoled her country’s Muslim community after the Christchurch mosque attack. Comforting because here, for once, was a normal human reaction; not robotic or platitudinous, not scripted or insincere. She hugged Muslim men, just as she did women, with a comfort that betrayed no self-consciousness. The power of her response came not only from her warm physical embraceof the survivors and families of victims, but also from symbolic gestures such as wearing the hijab and refusing to use the name of the chief suspect. This was backed up with the right messaging and followed swiftly with practical measures, such as new gun legislation.

It is a marvel to see a response so well calibrated. But it shouldn’t be. This is the distressing dimension of Ardern’s compassionate poise, that it is so unfamiliar, so rare. At a time when governments in Europe and the United States are either brazenly anti-Muslim and xenophobic, or at best silent

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