Thousands have gathered in Christchurch’s Hagley Park in New Zealand to mourn the loss of 50 lives, after a lone shooter opened fire at nearby mosques two weeks earlier.
Swathed in a Maori Korowai, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led a delegation of local and foreign dignitaries on Friday, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten.
Ardern used her address to condemn racism, saying that with the memory of the 50 lives lost came “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,” she said.
“Racism exists, but it is not welcome here. An assault on the freedom of anyone who practises their faith or religion is not welcome here. Violence and extremism in all its forms is not welcome here.”
Ardern said the March 15 tragedy showed New Zealanders they were not immune to the evils of terrorism.
“We are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other, we never have been,” she said.
“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.”
The service opened with a visibly distressed Imam from one of the mosques attacked by alleged Australian shooter, Brenton Tarrant.
Choked with emotion, Imam Alabi Lateef Zirullah from the Linwood Mosque that lost 10 worshippers on March 15, struggled to find his voice to open the ceremony’s prayers.
A wheelchair-bound survivor of the shootings, Farid Ahmed, appealed for forgiveness towards the shooter.
“Those who control their anger and pardon their fellow human, Allah loves those who are good-doers,” he said.
“Without forgiveness, we don’t show mercy”.
“A volcano has anger, fury, rage, it doesn’t have peace. It has hatred. It burns itself within and also it burns the surrounding.
“I don’t want to have a heart like this.”