Sat, Mar 23, 2019 - Page 6 News List

New Zealand mourns with prayers, unity

‘WE ARE ONE’:Thousands joined a moment of silence outside one of the mosques that was attacked last week, while relatives held funerals for 26 victims at a cemetery

Reuters, CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern waves as she leaves the Masjid al-Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand, after Friday prayers yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

The Muslim call to prayer yesterday sounded out over Christchurch and across New Zealand, as thousands gathered to remember the 50 people killed by a lone gunman at two mosques a week ago.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined about 20,000 people standing quietly at Hagley Park in front of the Masjid al-Noor, the mosque where most of the victims were killed during Friday prayers last week.

“New Zealand mourns with you. We are one,” she said in a short speech, followed by two minutes of silence.

Ardern, who swiftly denounced the shooting as terrorism, has announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles.

The country has been under heightened security since the attack, and police yesterday said that they were investigating a threat made against Ardern on Twitter.

The New Zealand Herald reported that a Twitter post containing a photograph of a gun and captioned “You are next” was sent to the prime minister.

The account has been suspended, the newspaper said.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one murder following the Christchurch attack and was remanded without a plea.

He is due back in court on April 5, when police said that he was likely to face more charges.

Most victims of New Zealand’s worst mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

“We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken. We are alive, we are together, we are determined to not let anyone divide us,” Imam Gamal Fouda told the crowd at the Masjid al-Noor, many wearing headscarves in support of the grieving Muslim community.

“To the families of the victims, your loved ones did not die in vain. Their blood has watered the seeds of hope,” he said in prayers broadcast nationally.

Tens of thousands of people paid their respects nationwide, with some forming human chains in front of mosques.

Others said silent prayers at schools, cafes and even offices.

Relatives and other mourners thronged into a Christchurch cemetery where 26 victims of the attack, and one person who died in a car crash that was unrelated to the mosque shooting, were laid to rest in a mass burial.

“This is a special janazah. We don’t do these every day,” one mourner said over a microphone, referring to a Muslim funeral prayer. “We don’t bury 27 of our brothers and sisters every day.”

The first to be laid to rest was Naeem Rashid, who was hailed as a hero, killed trying to tackle the gunman at the mosque.

Ardern, surrounded by ministers and security officials, wore a black headscarf and a black suit. Female police at the park also wore headscarves, with a red rose on their uniforms.

In a powerful speech that lasted about 20 minutes, Fouda said that through its love and compassion, New Zealand was unbreakable.

“We are here in our hundreds and thousands unified for one purpose — that hate will be undone and love will redeem us,” he said.

He thanked Ardern for her compassion, saying: “It has been a lesson for world leaders.”

Fouda also denounced Islamophobia, saying that it had killed people.

“Islamophobia is real. It is a targeted campaign to influence people to dehumanize and irrationally fear Muslims. To fear what we wear, to fear the choice of food we eat, to fear the way we pray and to fear the way we practice our faith,” he said.

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