Tributes after 'tragedy upon tragedy'

Home baking and flowers provided by South Otago community members for Muslim mourners attending a...
Home baking and flowers provided by South Otago community members for Muslim mourners attending a special service at Clutha District Council in Balclutha yesterday. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
Following "double tragedy" for Muslims in South Otago on Wednesday, the Clutha District Council has moved to honour victims of the recent terror attacks.

Yesterday police named the sole victim of a Palmerston crash early on Wednesday morning as Christchurch 49-year-old Mohamed Elmi.

Mr Elmi worked as a halal slaughterman at Silver Fern Farms' Finegand plant near Balclutha, and had been returning for his morning shift at the time of the accident, after spending time with family affected by the attacks in Christchurch.

Before its scheduled committee meetings yesterday afternoon, Clutha District Council held a special service for Muslim community members and their supporters, which was attended by about 50 people.

Opening the ceremony, Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan described the circumstances of Mr Elmi's death as "tragedy upon tragedy".

"The events of recent days have challenged us all.

"As a district, we share in your grief; you are a valued and respected part of our community. We want you to know that you are safe. We want you to know that you are wanted."

In an address during which he choked back tears, Silver Fern Farms regional general manager Silvio Tenci said the "double tragedy" of Mr Elmi's death had only added to the grief his colleagues were already experiencing.

"To have to face the death of their colleague this week while returning from mourning with family in Christchurch was truly the last straw. But among all the horror and grief of recent days, I've been amazed at their response."

Also speaking were Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, and Mr Elmi's colleague, Finegand halal supervisor Abdi Asman Korir.

Mr Walker alluded to the peaceful parallels between Islamic and Christian faiths, and encouraged reflection on how "we could all be more accepting, kind, loving and tolerant".

Mr Korir spoke of the quiet pride of Mr Elmi and his colleagues in their hard work and contributions to New Zealand society, and thanked the South Otago community for its support.

"We believe this is a country where everyone can have peace among the creation of God. Thank you to you all and to the community for your compliments and well wishes."

Mr Cadogan said a public commemoration would take place at Balclutha War Memorial Hall on Thursday, March 28, at 7pm.

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