One month on from that dark March day in Christchurch, a movement known as Turn to Love is continuing its work to bring New Zealanders closer together.
March 15 will be forever etched in New Zealanders’ minds. The horrific acts of violence that played out in Christchurch have changed this country forever. Through the massive outpouring of grief and anger that followed, hope has become our default state of mind.
As a response to the events in Christchurch, the Turn to Love movement was established, driven by technology and marketing entrepreneurs Rab Heath and Tor White, and supported by a tribe of like-minded creatives.
Within three days of the attacks, Heath had secured hundreds of billboards and posters across the country, and street corners hosted messages urging New Zealanders to Turn to Love. He then rallied White, cofounder Justin Vos and a team of nine others to develop a wider strategy and platform to deliver an ongoing dialogue around love and empathy.
Says Heath: “Our intention is to create a conversation around what peace and empathy look like, through the medium of art and technology.
“Together with the generous support of digital experts, web developers, copywriters and other creatives, we worked around the clock to bring Turn to Love to life and by 2pm on Friday 22nd March – exactly one week after the attack took place, and at prayer time – there were more than 100 #turntolove billboards and 400 posters up around the country, all donated by generous out-of-home media companies.
“Since 15 March, New Zealand has responded as a country in the most extraordinary way. It’s vital we do not let people drift into the background again and not be heard. In a world that continues to escalate in tension, division and hate, it is our belief that the only antidote to these societal issues is seeking greater empathy and understanding through calm and respectful conversation.”
Heath says Turn to Love is a way to keep the momentum going and to make it easy to engage in the conversation.
The concept of Turn to Love is based on a simple question on its newly created website: ‘What does empathy look like to you?’ For Mike in Whangarei it is as simple as “To not judge our differences”, for Kiwi Jimmy in Auckland, he says “It is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist. We must have the courage to call others out when we hear racist remarks. No exceptions.”, and through the platform, people are able to read and share their insights.
Artists have been invited to contribute works to the movement that speak to their interpretation of what empathy and love look like. People can download these works for free and are globally available.
“We have local and international artists such as Otis Frizzell, Mike Perry, Tobias Hall and many others contributing their art to the cause and we are also looking for a New Zealand brand partner to help sponsor the ongoing costs of running an updated and ongoing billboard and poster campaign.”
Heath and the team have this week signed an MoU with a similar group in Europe working under the same banner #turntolove that was established after the ISIS attack in Brussels in March 2016, with the purpose of developing an ongoing, cohesive and globally scalable initiative.
Says Heath: “Turn to Love is an opportunity for New Zealanders to be leaders of social responsibility and for our country to become a case study globally on how to actively create a more empathetic society. This will have a flow-on effect to other nations, which ultimately will lead to a more empathetic world.
“The project is about starting a broader dialogue as a nation, as communities and most importantly, within ourselves about who we want to be moving forward. Through Turn to Love we hope empathy will become a permanent aspect of our national identity.”