“Racism exists, but it is not welcome here,” was the message that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern conveyed to the country at the memorial service of the victims of Christchurch mass shooting on Friday, March 29, at Hagley Park in Christchurch.
More than 20,000 people attended the memorial service including several dignitaries from across different countries and gave Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a standing ovation as she took the stage to address the nation.
Friday, March 29, marked two weeks since the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand that took the lives of 50 people and injured another 47, some of whom are still critical in hospitals.
Renowned artists Yusuf/Cat Stevens, Marlon Williams, Maisey Rika, Hollie Smith and Teeks are among the performers for the event. FIANZ President Dr Mustafa Farouk, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, interfaith representatives were some of the many speakers who conveyed the message of peace and solidarity and ‘acceptance for all’ at the event.
A similar memorial service was also held at Eden Park in Auckland where more than 3000 people came together with their family and friends. This event was attended by rugby star Sonny Bill Williams, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Reverend Bruce Keeley from Auckland Interfaith Council, Aliya Danzeizen from Islamic Women’s Council of NZ, Maulana Sarfraz Sher Ali, and New Zealand Muslim Association President Ikhlaq Kashkari.
The event in Auckland started with the call to prayer or Adhan at 1 p.m. followed by the sermon and Friday prayers and then the remembrance service in the presence of thousands who stationed themselves in the stadium stands.
“I am a proud Muslim and New Zealander and commended the country for its reaction to the attack. I just want to say to our New Zealand community, from my heart, the response has been beautiful,” Rugby star Sonny Bill Williams said at the event.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Mayor Phil Goff and Reverend Bruce Keeley, while Ikhlaq Kashkari from NZMA thanked the community for showering the mosques with flowers, donations and for extending their love and brotherhood towards the Muslim community in New Zealand.
President of FIANZ sent his message of appreciation through a video where he acknowledged the solidarity the Muslim community received at their hour of distress and pain.
Students from Kowhai Intermediate performed Waiata and haka, celebrated musician Dave Dobbyn performed ‘Welcome Home’ song and a minute of silence was observed for the fallen souls.
On Saturday, March 30, a peace vigil was organised at Manukau Square in South Auckland where community members gathered and expressed their grief for the victims of the mosque attack and also condemned racism.