At 1.32pm, exactly a week after a gunman began shooting people at two mosques in Christchurch, the nation of New Zealand observed a two-minute silence to remember the 50 victims.
Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old suspected white supremacist from Australia, had launched the attack to try to repel “invaders” from New Zealand, he wrote in a manifesto. Yet, the nation came together on Friday to observe the Muslim call to prayer, which was sounded around the country — including on national radio and television — before ceremonies were attended by tens of thousands of people who paid tribute to the dead and heard calls for unity.
Addressing a crowd of thousands standing quietly at Hagley Park, near the Al Noor mosque where 42 people were killed, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, said: “New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.”
Imam Gamal Fouda, from the mosque, told the crowd: “We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken. We are alive, we are together, we are determined to not let anyone divide us.”
He added: “To the people of New Zealand, thank you for your peace. Thank you for your haka. Thank you for your flowers. Thank you for your love and compassion.”
Many women wore headscarves to demonstrate solidarity with the grieving community. Across New Zealand, small ceremonies and prayers were conducted at mosques, schools, cafes and offices.
The nation’s The Press newspaper carried a front page simply saying “Salam, peace” in English and Arabic, and The Dominion Post listed the names of the victims, alongside the words: “1.32pm — Today we remember”.
Following the ceremony, mourners gathered at a cemetery to attend a burial service for 26 of the victims, including three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, the youngest of the dead. Despite Islamic custom requiring speedy burials, the funerals had been delayed due to the painstaking effort by authorities to identify the victims.
The first to be buried on Friday was Naeem Rashid, a 50-year-old who died trying to tackle the gunman near the entrance of the Al Noor mosque. His 21-year-old son Talha Rashid was also killed. His wife, Ambreen Naeem Rashid, 44, told The Courier Mail of the murderer: “I feel really sorry for him. I feel sorry for all the people who hate in their hearts. They can never have satisfaction.”
New Zealand’s terror alert level remains high, despite authorities being confident that the attack was conducted by a lone gunman.
Ms Ardern has announced a ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons and on the parts and ammunition used in the attack, ahead of a wider overhaul of gun laws over the coming weeks. She and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison have called for an international effort to force technology firms to prevent the spread of online hate speech. The gunman livestreamed his attack on Facebook, which, along with other sites such as YouTube and Twitter, has struggled to prevent the footage being republished online.
About one per cent of New Zealand’s 4.8 million residents are Muslim.
Imam Fouda said the attack “did not come overnight” and urged the global community to combat Islamophobia.
“[The attack] was the result of the anti-Muslim rhetoric of some political leaders, media agencies and others,” he said. “The rise of white supremacy and right-wing extremism is a great global threat to mankind and this must end now.”