Despite the fact that my profession sometimes requires it, I dread going to court.
This week, a visit to court came up as the trial of a 39-year-old suspect, who in January last year allegedly went on a shooting rampage on a farm in Brandwag, was set to start.
It is alleged that for an entire day on Sunday, 7 January 2018, the suspect fired shots at members of the emergency services who arrived at the scene, initially wrongly thought to be a hostage drama.
By some miracle, judging where an ambulance was hit by a bullet from a heavy calibre rifle, no one was injured during the shooting. At dusk, the suspect surrendered. Nine firearms and multiple rounds of ammunition were found at the scene.
Waiting outside the courtroom this week, the irony struck me of the trial starting now as the world still reels after the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. During prayer hour last week Friday, a 28-year-old Australian man opened fire on unsuspecting worshipers with an assault rifle, killing 50 people. It is suspected that he was en route to a third target.
It occurred to me, as I chatted to witnesses subpoenaed to testify in the trial, some being friends of mine who dodged the bullets fired by the Brandwag shooter, that I was in church when I received news of the incident.
All too soon, WhatsApp messages from my friends at the scene revealed why I had every reason to feel very fearful of what was unfolding, despite being kilometres away from the danger.
With the world being in crisis, mankind is hard pressed to search for meaning, stability and consolation. We all pursue this in different ways. Many find it in practising religion - something that certainly has given me great comfort throughout my life.
There was no place to hide for those worshipping at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre last Friday. As much as I didn't want to see the video of the incident, I found myself looking at footage filmed by the shooter himself, mesmerised with disbelief.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been lauded for her leadership following the tragedy. She urged her fellow countrymen to reject hatred and instead share in the grief of the bereaved. In an act of solidarity, notorious biker gangs such as the Mongrel Mob have volunteered to guard Muslim communities in Christchurch at this week's jumah on Friday.
The gesture was welcomed. Although they said they were unafraid to continue praying, appreciation was expressed for the support from "different sections of society, different interests and dispositions". Head of the Waikato Muslim
Association, Dr Asad Mohsin, was also quoted saying: "It all gives us strength to overcome the grief we are undergoing."
In all this, as South Africa celebrated Human Rights Day this week, what rang most clearly in my head were the lyrics to the finale of Les Misérables:
Do you hear the people sing Lost in the valley of the night It is the music of a people Who are climbing to the light For the wretched of the earth There is a flame that never dies Even the darkest night will end And the sun will rise. Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade Is there a world you long to see?