Last week, the city of Christchurch in New Zealand experienced a sort of tragedy that felt different from their past woes of deadly earthquakes. The source of death this time around was man, and the targets were of the country’s Muslim community. March 15 had seen armed assailants strike at two Christchurch mosques, resulting in 50 people killed and more wounded. The New Zealand government with the Prime Minister at their head condemned the atrocity which has been labeled a terrorist attack, a sentiment that was shared around the world. This Friday, a week later, the country gathered to remember.
CNN reports that the following Friday after March 15 was designated by New Zealand as a “Day of Reflection” for the nation to consider the heinous armed attack against Muslim worshippers at the Linwood and Noor Mosques in Christchurch last week. While fatalities of the incident have already started getting buried earlier this week, an official moment to remember the fallen was scheduled after noon, beginning with a national television broadcast of the Islamic call to prayer around 1:30 PM, minutes before the first shooting took place at Al Noor, 1:40. The call was followed by two minutes of silence.
Gatherings of remembrance took place near the Mosques, which have thus far been cordoned off for security reasons, as well as the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Not far from Noor, at Hagley Park, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed mourners and sympathizers at an outdoor Islamic memorial service. She quoted from the Quran a sermon by Muhammad about how a group of believers are like a single body; and any harm upon some of the believers causes pain felt by everyone else. She concluded her speech with an assurance for Muslims in the country: “New Zealand mourns with you; we are one.”
Surrounding the assembly of Muslim worshippers was a large crowd of non-Muslims who have joined the service in a spirit of solidarity. For instance, Prime Minister Ardern and many of the women present wore headscarves in respect. The main sermon of the afternoon was delivered by Noor Mosque’s imam, Gamal Fouda, who survived the carnage last Friday.
Speaking of the terror attacks’ perpetrators he said, “This terrorist sought to divide our nation apart with an evil ideology, that has torn the world apart, but instead we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable, and that the world can see in us an example of love and unity. We are brokenhearted, but we are not broken. We are alive. We are together. We are determined to not let anyone divide us.”
Of the wounded in the double shootings, 27 are still in the hospital. Five of them, including a girl only aged 4, are in critical condition and in intensive care.
Image from The Daily Star