Thousands turn out for Dunedin vigil

About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Chris Morris
About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Chris Morris
About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Chris Morris
About 15,000 people have gathered at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight for the Christchurch terror attack vigil. Photo: Chris Morris
A huge crowd leaves the university on its way to Fosyth Barr Stadium ahead of the Dunedin vigil tonight. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
A huge crowd leaves the university on its way to Fosyth Barr Stadium ahead of the Dunedin vigil tonight. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
 A huge crowd leaves the university on its way to Fosyth Barr Stadium ahead of the Dunedin vigil tonight. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
A huge crowd leaves the university on its way to Fosyth Barr Stadium ahead of the Dunedin vigil tonight. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
 A huge crowd leaves the university on its way to Fosyth Barr Stadium ahead of the Dunedin vigil tonight. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
A huge crowd leaves the university on its way to Fosyth Barr Stadium ahead of the Dunedin vigil tonight. Photo: Gerard O'Brien

About 15,000 people have turned up to Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight to pay their respects to those affected by the Christchurch terror attacks.

Over 10,000 members of the public, University of Otago staff and students marched in complete silence to Forsyth Barr Stadium ahead of this evening's vigil in honour of the victims of the Christchurch terror attacks.

No words. No cellphones in sight. The huge crowd of people started marching to the stadium from the university about 5.30pm. The vigil is set to begin at 7pm.

The crowd of people was so long that by the time the first people reached the stadium others at the end of the queue were still at the university.

By the time the whole queue had entered the stadium and others had arrived for the vigil there appeared to be over 15,000 in attendance.

The ceremony was opened with a karakia and a greeting by Matapura Ellison.

"Whatever your background, whatever your faith, whatever your community," we have gathered here together today, he said.

This was then followed by a waiata by the Otago University Maori Students Association and a prayer by Sheikh Asrarul Haque Obaidullah.

"Bless these people who are supporting each other and are standing side by side with each other," he said.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull also gave a welcoming speech to the crowd.

"There is no point in dwelling on the perpetrator, this only validates him and his poisonous beliefs", Mr Cull said.

We cannot help the dead, "they are now in the arms of the Almighty." We must support those who are left, he said.

"We need to examine what needs to change so that this does not happen again.

"To my Muslim brothers and sisters...you are a precious part of us and we embrace you.

"To our wider community, care for each other, all of each other...embrace difference.

"If we don't forge goodness out of this evil... then the forces of hate have triumphed and we will be left an even poorer community."

Chairman of the Otago Muslim Association Dr Mohammed Rizwan gave a tearful address to the crowd.

"We need to ask ourselves 'what I can do better as a person' and 'what can we do better as a community' so such tragedies never happen again, Dr Rizwan said.

"We must do better!

"But we must never lose hope...with so much aroha there is a little less darkness. The flowers, the food, the songs, the hugs, the kind words...show me and our community that we are loved," he said.

Fifty candles that were lit at the vigil to commemorate the victims of the attacks framed the stage and was followed by 10 minutes of silence.

At the end of the event, the crowd of thousands sang the New Zealand national anthem together.

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