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A police official hugs a relative after the burial of a victim in the mass shootings last week at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian) — Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

In pictures: Defiance, tears and joy as New Zealand unites a week after mosques massacre

Thousands gather in Christchurch to honour the 50 Muslim worshippers killed last week by a white supremacist.
Updated Mar 23, 2019 08:27am

Thousands of New Zealanders gathered in Christchurch on Friday to honour the 50 Muslim worshippers killed one week ago by a white supremacist, with a call to prayer broadcast around the country and a two-minute silence.

When the prayer memorial ended, Ahmad Khan stood shoulder-to-shoulder with three Maori men in traditional dress as they all stuck out their tongues.

“It's unbelievable looking at the crowd here, thousands of people gathering behind us during prayers,” said Khan, a 36-year-old businessman who flew down from Auckland to attend the service. “It's a feeling of rejoicing.”

Members of the public look on during a gathering for congregational Friday prayers and two minutes of silence for victims of the twin mosque massacre, at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AFP
Members of the public look on during a gathering for congregational Friday prayers and two minutes of silence for victims of the twin mosque massacre, at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AFP

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, meets Muslim men following Friday prayers at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AP
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, meets Muslim men following Friday prayers at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AP

Joy might seem like an odd word for someone who hails from a community that just had an unimaginable atrocity committed against them.

The killings began only a short distance away at the bloodstained Al Noor mosque, which is still shuttered to the public.

But Khan said he was buzzing. No longer was his community isolated, shunned or viewed with suspicion. The memory of those lost was, of course, painful. But for now, he wanted to bask in that newfound community spirit.

Attendees react during a two-minute silence held in memory of the twin mosque attacks, in a park near the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. — AFP
Attendees react during a two-minute silence held in memory of the twin mosque attacks, in a park near the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. — AFP

Zaid Mustafa, second left, son and brother of victims from last week's mosque shootings is welcomed to Friday prayers at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AP
Zaid Mustafa, second left, son and brother of victims from last week's mosque shootings is welcomed to Friday prayers at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AP

The Al Noor mosque is seen after police removed screens before congregational Friday prayers and two minutes of silence for victims of the twin mosque massacre, at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AFP
The Al Noor mosque is seen after police removed screens before congregational Friday prayers and two minutes of silence for victims of the twin mosque massacre, at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AFP

Khan was not alone.

A queue of worshippers waited for pictures with the three Maoris — men in prayer caps and long tunics, veiled women and young children squealing with delight as the trio put on their most frightening war faces.

A Muslim man (R) and another local perform a traditional Maori 'hongi' greeting, a touching of noses, during a gathering for congregational Friday prayers at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AFP
A Muslim man (R) and another local perform a traditional Maori 'hongi' greeting, a touching of noses, during a gathering for congregational Friday prayers at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AFP

A man holding a New Zealand flag reacts during a burial ceremony for victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch. — Reuters
A man holding a New Zealand flag reacts during a burial ceremony for victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch. — Reuters

Sea of colour

The crowd reflected the sheer diversity of those affected by last week's devastating attacks.

At the front, divided into male and female sections, were those hit the hardest — thousands of Muslim worshippers facing the mosque for prayers, including survivors and relatives of those killed. It looked much like any outdoor Friday prayer session.

A youth cries during congregational Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid mosque in Hamilton on March 22. — AFP
A youth cries during congregational Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid mosque in Hamilton on March 22. — AFP

New Zealand officials observe two minutes of silence outside the Wellington Islamic Centre in Wellington on Friday. — AFP
New Zealand officials observe two minutes of silence outside the Wellington Islamic Centre in Wellington on Friday. — AFP

But what made the gathering so extraordinary were the thousands of non-Muslims behind them.

There were families from across New Zealand, biker gang members standing guard, Maoris in traditional attire, and priests in clerical collars.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also attended, as did a self-declared wizard clad in flowing robes and a pointed hat.

People hold placards after a Muslim prayer service and two minute's silence for twin mosque massacre victims in a park near the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. — AFP
People hold placards after a Muslim prayer service and two minute's silence for twin mosque massacre victims in a park near the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. — AFP

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures as she departs following a gathering for congregational Friday prayers and two minutes of silence for victims of the twin mosque massacre, at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AFP
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures as she departs following a gathering for congregational Friday prayers and two minutes of silence for victims of the twin mosque massacre, at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AFP

Some brought guitars and sang songs. Others held placards.

One banner held by two people next to where Muslim men were washing ahead of prayers simply read: “We support our Muslim neighbours.” Instead of mourning in black, most women wore bright headscarves, creating a kaleidoscope of colour.

Women wearing headscarves as tribute to the victims of the mosque attacks are seen before Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. — Reuters
Women wearing headscarves as tribute to the victims of the mosque attacks are seen before Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. — Reuters

Armed police officers patrol outside Al Noor mosque ahead of Friday prayers at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AP
Armed police officers patrol outside Al Noor mosque ahead of Friday prayers at Hagley Park in Christchurch. — AP

A police officer wearing a headscarf stands guard during a funeral ceremony at the Memorial Park in Christchurch on Friday. — AFP
A police officer wearing a headscarf stands guard during a funeral ceremony at the Memorial Park in Christchurch on Friday. — AFP

Many of those attending said New Zealand had been forever changed by the murders — but in a way that would only bond people together.

“The country is united in this and nothing is ever going to break it,” Christchurch local John Dale, 59, said, accompanied by his partner Shirley, who had decided to wear a white headscarf.

“We'll stand behind each other — anyone. Muslims, Christian, any religion.”

Mourners carry the casket of a victim who was killed in the New Zealand twin mosque massacre at Memorial Park Cemetery during a burial in Christchurch. — AFP
Mourners carry the casket of a victim who was killed in the New Zealand twin mosque massacre at Memorial Park Cemetery during a burial in Christchurch. — AFP

Mourners fill in the grave of a victim of the New Zealand twin mosque attacks during a funeral at the Memorial Park cemetery in Christchurch. — AFP
Mourners fill in the grave of a victim of the New Zealand twin mosque attacks during a funeral at the Memorial Park cemetery in Christchurch. — AFP

'Acts of kindness'

Mohamed Nadir lost his brother Mohammed Daoud Nabi, the 71-year-old gunned down reportedly greeting his killer with the words “hello brother”.

As he knelt down during the two minutes of silence, Nadir started to weep.

The woman kneeling next to him, Alaska Wood, rested her hand and forehead on his shoulder.

Alaska Wood, 26, (centre L) comforts Mohammed Nadir, 58, (centre R) as he cries while taking part in a two-minute silence for twin mosque massacre victims in a park near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. — AFP
Alaska Wood, 26, (centre L) comforts Mohammed Nadir, 58, (centre R) as he cries while taking part in a two-minute silence for twin mosque massacre victims in a park near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. — AFP

Flowers are placed around portraits at the home of Haji Mohammed Daoud Nabi, 71, in Chirstchurch. — AFP
Flowers are placed around portraits at the home of Haji Mohammed Daoud Nabi, 71, in Chirstchurch. — AFP

“They're hurting, they need us, so the least we can do is to stand beside them,” Wood, a Christchurch local, told AFP.

“There's only so much we can do. But if it's little acts of kindness, they will snowball into big acts. It's the only way things will change.”

Maori schoolboys perform a Haka after Friday prayers at Lakemba Mosque in Sydney on March 22, one week after the mass shooting attacks at two mosques in Christchurch. — AFP
Maori schoolboys perform a Haka after Friday prayers at Lakemba Mosque in Sydney on March 22, one week after the mass shooting attacks at two mosques in Christchurch. — AFP

People gather to form a "ring of peace" around a local mosque to show solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. — Reuters
People gather to form a "ring of peace" around a local mosque to show solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. — Reuters

Hasma Adeeb, 23, had tears streaming down her face as she was hugged by a series of well-wishers. Her father Adeeb Ahmed Sama was shot twice in the massacre, diving on top of her twin brother Ali. She described the huge number of non-Muslim women wearing headscarves for the day as a “beautiful” gesture.

“Today we really did feel the support from everyone. New Zealand has been amazing. Just having everyone by our side — it truly means a lot to all of us. It's beautiful, so thank you.”

Soon after, she was embraced by another person.


Header photo: A police official hugs a relative after the burial of a victim in the mass shootings last week at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. — AP