Silent crowd listens to Christchurch mosque attack victims' names at NZ memorial

Published March 29, 2019
Members of the Christchurch Muslim community read the names of the dead during a national remembrance service for the victims of the March 15 mosques terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker) — Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Members of the Christchurch Muslim community read the names of the dead during a national remembrance service for the victims of the March 15 mosques terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker) — Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
A man wipes a tear from his face during a national remembrance service in Hagley Park for the victims of the March 15 mosque terrorist attack in Christchurch. ─ AP
A man wipes a tear from his face during a national remembrance service in Hagley Park for the victims of the March 15 mosque terrorist attack in Christchurch. ─ AP
This handout picture released by the Australian Prime Minister's Office on March 29, 2019 shows Prime Minister Scott Morrison and wife Jenny visiting the Al Noor Mosque in New Zealand to lay a wreath and pay their respects to the victims of the twin mosque terror attacks. ─ AFP
This handout picture released by the Australian Prime Minister's Office on March 29, 2019 shows Prime Minister Scott Morrison and wife Jenny visiting the Al Noor Mosque in New Zealand to lay a wreath and pay their respects to the victims of the twin mosque terror attacks. ─ AFP
Women react as the New Zealand national anthem is sung during the national remembrance service. ─ AP
Women react as the New Zealand national anthem is sung during the national remembrance service. ─ AP
Police patrol during the National Remembrance Service at North Hagley Park in Christchurch on March 29, 2019. ─ AFP
Police patrol during the National Remembrance Service at North Hagley Park in Christchurch on March 29, 2019. ─ AFP
People attend the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand. ─ Reuters
People attend the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand. ─ Reuters

Thousands stood in silence in a Christchurch park on Friday as the names of 50 people shot dead in a 'white supremacist' terror attack on two mosques were read out at a national memorial service, with speakers calling for the legacy of the tragedy to be a kinder, more tolerant New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden gestures to relatives of victims of the mosque attacks during the service. ─ Reuters
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden gestures to relatives of victims of the mosque attacks during the service. ─ Reuters

Dozens of representatives of governments from around the world joined New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the remembrance service in Hagley Park, near the Al Noor mosque where more than 40 of the victims were killed by a suspected white supremacist during Friday prayers on March 15.

"Our challenge now is to make the very best of us a daily reality. Because we are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other. We never have been," said Ardern, whose handling of the tragedy has won global praise.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a victim's relative. ─ Reuters
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a victim's relative. ─ Reuters

"But we can be the nation that discovers the cure. And so to each of us as we go from here, we have work to do," she said.

Ardern, who wore a Maori cloak known as a kakahu during the service, said the world had to end the vicious cycle of extremism and that it needed a global effort.

"The answer to them lies in a simple concept that is not bound by domestic borders, that isn't based on ethnicity, power-base or even forms of governance. The answer lies in our humanity," she said.

Security was tight around the service, and New Zealand remains on high security alert. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said it was one of the largest security events ever conducted by police in New Zealand.

'A beautiful garden'

Mosque shooting survivor Farid Ahmed addresses the national remembrance service in Hagley Park for the victims of the March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch. ─ AP via NZ government
Mosque shooting survivor Farid Ahmed addresses the national remembrance service in Hagley Park for the victims of the March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch. ─ AP via NZ government

Farid Ahmed, whose wife Husna was one of the 50 killed, told the crowd that, as a man of faith, he had forgiven his wife's killer because he did not want to have "a heart that is boiling like a volcano".

"I want a heart that will be full of love and care and full of mercy and will forgive easily, because this heart doesn't want any more lives to be lost," he said to applause.

He called for people to work together for peace and to change attitudes to see everyone as part of one family, using Christchurch's nickname of the Garden City to make his point.

"I may be from one culture, you may come from another culture, I may have one faith, you may have one faith, but together we are a beautiful garden," Ahmed said.

A member of the public sheds a tear during the National Remembrance Service at North Hagley Park in Christchurch. ─ AFP
A member of the public sheds a tear during the National Remembrance Service at North Hagley Park in Christchurch. ─ AFP

Kelly Smith, 52, from Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, said she found Ahmed's speech beautiful.

"I loved what he said: were all different flowers, but we all look pretty together and that's so true," she said.

Performers during the ceremony included Yusuf Islam, also known as Cat Stevens, who performed his song 'Peace Train'.

Two young girls briefly took to the stage in an unscheduled appearance so one could read out her fathers name.

"He passed away on March 15 and he was a really nice man, one of the unidentified girls said.

Mohamed Mohideen, the President of the Islamic Council of Victoria in Australia, said Ardern's response helped provide comfort and thanked her for her support of the Muslim community.

The massacre in Christchurch was carried out by a lone gunman who livestreamed the attack on Facebook. Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one count of murder and is likely to face more charges when he reappears in court next Friday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (R) is embraced by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a bilateral meeting following the service. ─ AP
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (R) is embraced by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a bilateral meeting following the service. ─ AP

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he has been working closely with Ardern to look at issues such as gun laws and blocking extremist content on social media.

"There are the laws we need now, to ensure that social media is not weaponised," Morrison told reporters after the service.

The service was broadcast around the country. Muslim volunteers, some of whom had travelled from Australia and Asia, handed out pamphlets with information about Islam as crowds left the park after the service.

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