YESTERDAY morning, like you, I woke up to the news that 49 people had been gunned down in a terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, while at prayer. Those who did this celebrated white supremacy.

It is reported that the words “refugees welcome to hell” were written on his weapon.

For more than 10 years I’ve enjoyed connecting with communities and working with refugees and Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand as a visiting professor. I’ve been in communities as they have campaigned to raise the New Zealand refugee quota from 1000 to 1500 refugees a year. I’ve witnessed the way the Refugees Welcome movement has grown in a context where the politics of land and language and colonial legacies are fraught but finding new depths of care. There have been times when I’ve longed for the “problems” of Aotearoa New Zealand for ourselves. Would that the big campaigning issue could be a doubling of quota, I used to think, as we struggled with the misery of our own radically unjust asylum system. I remember facilitating a workshop on the North Island and the outcome being campaigning for and strengthening support for refugee-background women to have free driving lessons. I remember afterwards thinking, wistfully, that I wished I had those kinds of campaigns on my plate back home.

But not on Friday morning.

That icy chill which is probably common to all of us who have lived in Scotland for the last 20 years or so, gripped me again, because we know this. And those in Dunblane know it most intimately. There is something about the sanctuary spaces of schools, mosques, churches, of places of innocent gathering, learning and of prayer being violated that tears us apart. The quota in New Zealand for refugees was doubled. Some of the dead are those who were granted protection. All were at prayer.

Kia maia – be steadfast.

Leadership in Aoteaora New Zealand in the face of the vile ideology of white supremacy has been clear. The PM, Jacinda Ardern, has been unequivocal, giving her “strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this”, and stating: “You may have chosen us but we utterly reject and condemn you.”

That this would be something to be remarked upon shows us how terribly world leaders have failed to be steadfast, as the flames of hate, of Islamophobia and racism in particular, have been fanned so successfully by the far-right, and often not so far-right.

In my mind are the words from Dostevsky’s Brothers Karmazov: “At some ideas you stand perplexed, especially at the sight of human sins, uncertain whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide I will combat it with humble love ... loving humility is a terrible force; it is the strongest of all things and there is nothing like it.”

“Aroha nui” is the te reo language expression which might best translate into “humble love” – and my messages from Aotearoa cleave to this Maori idea in particular. Not retribution, or revenge, or even soul searching about how this happened, but aroha nui – compassion, love.

It’s probably the best place to start, anything, every day.

kia manawanui – be willing

My friends and colleagues in NZ are stunned, numb, gathering together, refugees, settlers and Maori alike.

I’m at a table on the other side of the world, being offered generous hospitality by friends as I travel. “I feel so helpless. I can’t do anything,” says my host, pouring tea.

And there she is, already doing something.

Peace making is perhaps the world’s most ordinary and even easy activity, at least on a day-to-day basis. It’s not something that needs the super-gifted to engage in it. It’s what parents do between siblings. “Share with your brother. Don’t snatch. That hurts when you do that to your sister.” It’s what comes with the offers of hospitality “Would you like some tea.” It’s in every greeting, most of which in the world’s languages translate at depth into “peace be to you”.

Maybe we can’t do much about the situation in New Zealand but we can do something every day in our own communities and institutions. We can’t now prevent what has just happened. The horror has visited Christchurch. Thoughts and prayers are not nothing, but they are not the end of the response, ever.

Here are three things we might start with: join and donate to the campaign Stop Funding Hate to stand up to racism and all forms of prejudice – don’t ever allow it to be normalised. Join the demonstrations where you can, or the vigils. Be counted. And if you haven’t done this before, tag along with someone else who has.

Sign up to campaigns to end the trade in arms. We banned fire arms in the U.K. after Dunblane, for the most part, and mercifully we have not been visited again by terror of that nature.Reach out to those in your midst who are members of the groups under attack; be kind and compassionate, have conversations, say you are sorry, ask what you can do to be in solidarity, don’t assume you know.

Always decide for humble love, compassion – Aroha nui.

Alison Phipps is the Unesco chair for refugee integration through languages and the arts at Glasgow University, as well as visiting professor at Auckland University of Technology and Otago University