Around 25,000 gathered at North Hagley Park yesterday morning, a few meters away from Al Noor Mosque where a terrorist killed 50 Muslim worshippers two weeks ago, to attend a memorial service to honor the victims, The Guardian reported Friday, March 29.
Addressing the crowd in the park near the Al Noor mosque, where more than 42 people were killed earlier this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had “a responsibility to be the place we wish to be”.
“The world has been stuck in a vicious cycle of extremism breeding extremism and it must end,” she said.
“We each hold the power – in our words, in our actions, in our daily acts of kindness – let that be the legacy of the 15th of March,” Ardern said.
Terrorist Brenton Harrison Tarrant killed 50 Muslim worshippers in Friday’s attacks as he targeted Al Noor and Linwood mosques.
The PM praised globally for her compassionate and strong leadership after the March 15 massacre, received a standing ovation as she took to the stage wearing a Maori cloak.
She said to applause that New Zealanders had: “a responsibility to be the place that we wish to be. A place that is diverse, that is welcoming, that is kind and compassionate. Those values represent the very best of us. But even the ugliest of viruses can exist in places they are not welcome. Racism exists, but it is not welcome here.”
It was attended by dozens of government representatives from around the world attended the memorial, including the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
President of the Muslim Council of Canterbury, Shaggaf Khan, said he was humbled by the outpouring grief that followed March 15 massacre.
“That you did not leave us alone in our sadness. New Zealand responded in a way that none of us will ever forget – that let the world know who we really are.”
Yusuf Islam, the British Muslim artist previously known as Cat Stevens, sang his songs Peace Train and Don’t be Shy.
Islam, who converted to Islam in 1977, told those “shining souls whose lives were snatched away in that moment of madness may peace be upon them”.
“We learn about things through their opposites and it’s opposites like this – the evilness of that act and what drove it – we find its opposite – which is the love and kindness and unity which has sprung up right here in New Zealand.”
All 50 names of the victims who died in the attacks were read out at the event by members of the city’s Muslim community.
The victims included men, women and children from across the world. The youngest victim was just three years old.
There are still 22 people recovering in hospital, including a critically injured four-year-old girl.
Farid Ahmed, who survived the Al Noor mosque attack but whose wife Husna Ahmed died, said when he is asked why he has forgiven the attacker, he says Allah loves those who “control their anger and pardon their fellow human”.