'Broken-hearted but not broken'

The Al Noor mosque's imam, Gamal Fouda, thanked New Zealanders for their support. Photo: AP
The Al Noor mosque's imam, Gamal Fouda, thanked New Zealanders for their support. Photo: AP
KEY POINTS:

  • The nation fell silent at 1.32pm today to honour the 50 killed in Christchurch's shootings
  • 'We are broken-hearted but we are not broken' - Imam tells hundreds who came to pray at Christchurch's Hagley Park
  • Thousands expected for vigil in Auckland Domain at 6pm
  • Four Auckland mosques opening their doors to all Kiwis from 5pm-8pm - in Ponsonby, Ranui, North Shore and Pakuranga
  • In Dunedin people gathered at Al Huda mosque for prayers, a karakia and a haka
  • Following this afternoon's prayers in Christchurch, a combined funeral service will be held for a large number of the victims including the youngest 

"New Zealand is unbreakable. We are broken-hearted but we are not broken."

Seven days ago, Al Noor Mosque Imam Gamal Fouda looked into the eyes of a killer.

Today, all he saw was love and compassion, as thousands gathered in Hagley Park - and millions stopped around New Zealand and the world - to honour the 50 killed at the two Christchurch mosques on March 15.

The mourners at Hagley Park in Christchurch during prayers on Friday. Photo: NZ Herald
The mourners at Hagley Park in Christchurch during prayers on Friday. Photo: NZ Herald
The Muslim call to prayer was spoken at 1.30pm followed by two minutes' silence to honour the victims of the shootings at the Al Noor mosque in Deans Ave and one in Linwood Ave.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and thousands of others congregated in Hagley Park opposite the Al Noor mosque to observe the call to prayer at 1.30pm.

"New Zealand mourns with you. We are one," she said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledges the Hagley Park crowd as she leaves Friday prayers....
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledges the Hagley Park crowd as she leaves Friday prayers. Photo: AP
Thousands more were listening in on the radio or watching on television as the event was broadcast live. The prayer was followed by two minutes of silence. 

The victims, of Muslim religion, died in the terrorist attack perpetrated by one accused gunman, and 48 were wounded - some critically - including a 4-year-old girl who is still fighting for her life a week on.

At Hagley Park the Al Noor mosque's imam, Gamal Fouda, thanked New Zealanders for their support.

"This terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology. ... But, instead, we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable.

"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, as the crowd erupted with applause.

A worshipper weeps in Hagley Park ahead of today's prayer service. Photo: NZ Herald
A worshipper weeps in Hagley Park ahead of today's prayer service. Photo: NZ Herald

“To the people of New Zealand, thank you. Thank you for your tears, thank you for your haka, thank you for your flowers, thank you for your love and your compassion.

"Last Friday I stood in this mosque and saw hatred and rage in the eyes of the terrorist who killed 50 people, wounded 48 and broke the hearts of millions around the world," he said.

"Today from the same place I look out and I see the love and compassion in the eyes of thousands of fellow New Zealanders and human beings from across the globe who fill the hearts of millions warm."

In Dunedin, people gathered at the Al Huda mosque to pay their respects, including a karakia and a haka.

Image: New Zealand Herald
Image: New Zealand Herald

Fouda thanked the New Zealand Government and everyone who had shown "that Muslims matter".

He also thanked first responders who helped save lives and neighbours and people driving past to save people from the killer.

He also had special word for Prime Minister Adern.

“To our Prime Minister, thank you. Thank you for your leadership, it has been a lesson for the world’s leaders.”

After the gathering in Hagley Park, thousands of people attended a mass funeral to bury 26 of the victims, including the youngest, Mucaad Ibrahim (3).

A national memorial would take place next week. Ardern earlier said New Zealanders were encouraged to join in wherever they were.

Zaid Mustafa (14) greets worshippers at prayers in Hagley Park. Photo: NZ Herald
Zaid Mustafa (14) greets worshippers at prayers in Hagley Park. Photo: NZ Herald
"I know many New Zealanders wish to mark the week that has passed since the terrorist attack and to support the Muslim community as they return to mosques. How we choose to reflect during the silence will be different for each of us.

"Everyone should do what feels right for them, wherever they are - at home, at work, at school."

'I COULD FEEL THE LOVE HERE'

Fahim Imam returned to his hometown for today's service. He left Christchurch three years ago and now lives in Auckland.

"It's just amazing to see how the country and the community have come together - blows my mind, actually," Imam (33) told AP.

When he got off the plane on Friday morning, he saw someone holding a sign that said "jenaza," denoting Muslim funeral prayer. Others were offering free rides to and from the prayer service.

"The moment I landed in Christchurch, I could feel the love here. I've never felt more proud to be a Muslim, or a Kiwi for that matter. It makes me really happy to be able to say that I'm a New Zealander," Imam said.

Ismat Fatimah (46) said it was sad to look at the Al Noor mosque, which was still surrounded by construction barricades, armed police and a huge mound of flowers and messages.

"We're feeling stronger than before, and we are one," she said.

She said she prayed for the people who died.

"I'm just imagining what would be happening last Friday," she said. "People were running around so scared and helpless. It's just not right."

Erum Hafeez (18) said she felt comforted by the overwhelming response from New Zealanders: "We are embraced by the community of New Zealand, we are not left behind and alone."

Workers have been toiling feverishly to repair the destruction at Al Noor mosque, some of whom offered their services for free. It's expected the mosque will reopen by next week.

TRIBUTES AT VIGILS

Around the country today, tributes were being paid at events and vigils as New Zealand's unity continues to shine through the tragedy.

More than 10,000 people were expected at the Auckland Domain for the Jummah Rememberance Vigil, starting at 6pm.

From 1.15pm at the Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington, a human chain will be formed. There will be vigils in Geraldine, Nelson, Kapiti, Gisborne and Hamilton.

In Auckland, mosques in four corners of the city will open their doors to people of all faiths to remember the 50 lives lost. These are the Ponsonby Masjid, Ranui Mosque, North Shore Islamic Centre and Masjid Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq in Pakuranga. They will be open from 5pm to 8pm.

New Zealand Muslim Association president Ikhlaq Kashkari said this was also a chance to thank the community for its support, compassion and kindness in the aftermath of the attack.

"It is important now, more than ever, to show solidarity and band together with our brothers and sisters across the country."

In Muslim tradition, worshippers are called to five daily prayers by a formal announcement, recited over a loud speaker from the minaret tower of a mosque by the muezzin (the prayer leader).

Ponsonby Masjid assistant imam Iqdal Slaimankhel said it was not where worshippers prayed that was important, but when.

Slaimankhel, an Afghani whose son, Omar Slaimankhel, played rugby league for the Junior Warriors, said the call to prayer was about celebrating Allah [God] as greatest.

Kiwis are also being encouraged to participate in Headscarf for Harmony today, by donning a hijab in a show of solidarity with the Muslim community.

Organisers say there are no rules around what sort of headscarf to wear or how to wear it, rather it's simply a way for Kiwis to show their support for Muslim women in New Zealand.

The events in Christchurch are distressing. If you, or someone you know, needs mental wellbeing support or advice then call or text 1737 anytime, or visit health.govt.nz.

 - additional reporting AP/RNZ

 

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