Jacinda Ardern before the swearing in of her Cabinet in October 2017
Photo: Governor-General of New Zealand via Wikimedia Commons
Petitions nominating Jacinda Ardern for the Nobel Peace Prize have attracted thousands of signatures in the last few days. One at change.org started by Rafia Saddiqui had 34,000 at last count, and another started by French website AVAAZ.org had a few thousand also.
Writing in The Independent a couple of days ago Narjas Satat gave seven reasons why this accolade was deserved. Already The New York Times had published a glowing editorial headed, “America Deserves as Good a Leader as Jacinda Ardern”, and highlighting her rapid move on the gun control front.
But, steady on! Can the New Zealand Prime Minister deserve a Nobel prize for a week’s work showing compassion, affirming the Muslim community and banning guns? Let’s pause and look at her achievement.
Ardern has done a magnificent job of responding to the Christchurch mosque shootings of March 15. She has been a model to everyone of loving our neighbour, particularly when they have been singled out for their ethnicity and culture by a mass murderer.
She swiftly condemned the attacks as terrorism and refuses to use the gunman’s name, rather focusing on his victims. She has pointed the finger at social media giants.
Yes, she has introduced emergency legislation to ban every type of weapon that was used in the Christchurch slaughter, and expects it to be passed by April 11, when the current session of Parliament ends. This has edified and cheered the anti-gun movement around the world.
She has given our nation words (“This [the killer] is not us. They [Muslims in New Zealand] are us”) and an image (herself wearing the hijab, hugging a Muslim woman) with which to express our sorrow and solidarity.
That image has been projected onto the tallest building in Dubai together with the word “Salaam”, peace.
She has made her country famous for all the right reasons.
New Zealand today fell silent in honour of the mosque attacks' martyrs. Thank you PM @jacindaardern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims after the terrorist attack that shook the Muslim community around the world. pic.twitter.com/9LDvH0ybhD
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) March 22, 2019
In these ways she has shown herself a decisive, compassionate and inspiring leader.
But the Nobel Peace Prize?
The prize is given to people who have demonstrated exceptional service to the world, and who “have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
This sounds like a demanding standard, although Barack Obama received it a year into his presidency on the strength of some powerful rhetoric, and Ardern may be competing with a teenage climate change activist for the next one. Donald Trump appears to have been nominated too, although there will likely be no contest on that score.
Ardern’s achievement over the past week or so is, like Obama’s, largely rhetorical – albeit her rhetoric and gestures convey sincere, heartfelt horror and sympathy. The gun ban is concrete, but remains to be defined. Besides, it too is symbolic to the extent that there is no consensus that gun control makes everyone safer. So we have yet to see the fruits of her efforts since March 15.
But there is something else.
Since the first duty of a government is to protect the lives of its citizens, Ardern is doing her duty on this front as she sees fit, and probably with the support of a majority of Kiwis.
That said, we cannot, should not forget the lives that she does not want to protect. Her party is committed to removing abortion from New Zealand’s criminal law and turning it into a health issue pure and simple. Already, in 2017, 18 percent of known pregnancies ended in abortion – a total of 13,285 unborn children. Calling this routine healthcare can only make things worse.
To ban guns, which occasionally are used to kill people, while getting rid of the last restraint on abortion and condoning war on the unborn, is a contradiction and raises serious questions about Ardern’s moral intelligence, if not compassion.
Jacinda Ardern is a born leader. Going by her success in reassuring the Muslim community in New Zealand, she could easily sway opinion among Kiwis in favour of protecting life in the womb by doing our utmost to support women distressed by a pregnancy – and by addressing the underlying reasons why so many take the desperate path of ending the life of their own child.
A first-time mother herself since last year, Ardern could inspire us to see that, from the beginning, these little unseen citizens “are us” and that killing them by the thousands is “not us”. What about it, Jacinda?
Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.