A Muslim leader has delivered a powerful message during a public memorial service for the victims of the Christchurch terror attack.
Muslims and non-Muslims came together in the city’s Hagley Park on Friday – a week after a gunman stormed two mosques, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more – to take part in prayer.
Imam Gamal Fouda, of Al Noor mosque, told the thousands who had gathered that from the tragedy there was hope.
Gamal Fouda, the imam of tragedy-stricken Al Noor mosque, delivers a sermon ahead of a two-minute observation of silence for victims of the twin mosque massacre, during congregational Friday prayers and memorial gathering at Hagley Park in Christchurch
Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor mosque, told the thousands who attended the memorial that the tragedy brought hope
Muslims and non-Muslims have come together in the city’s Hagley Park on Friday -a week after a gunman stormed two mosques, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more – to take part in prayer
‘Your loved ones did not die in vain. Their blood has watered the seeds of hope.
‘Through them, the world will see the beauty of Islam and the beauty of our unity.’
‘Last week I saw hatred and rage in the eyes of the terrorist who killed 50 and wounded 42 and broke the hearts of millions.
‘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.’
New Zealanders have responded to the horrific killings with a show of unity.
Many women in attendance wore headscarves in solidarity with New Zealand’s Muslim community.
Muslims answer the call to pray at Hagley Park, opposite the Al Noor Mosque, in Christchurch, New Zealand
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves after the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was present at the service, also covered her head with a scarf.
The imam thanked Ms Ardern for ‘honouring us with a simple scarf’.
He thanked the New Zealand government, the emergency services and neighbours ‘who opened their doors to save us from the killer.’
‘Thank you New Zealand for teaching the world what it means to love and care,’ he said.
He then called on governments around the world to end hate speech and the politics of hate.
Muslims prostrate towards Mecca during congregational Friday prayers led by Gamal Fouda, imam of tragedy-stricken Al Noor mosque, during a gathering for prayers
People leave after the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand
He said the rise of white supremacism was a ‘global threat to mankind’ and showed that ‘terrorism has no race, no colour, no religion.’ He called for an end to Islamophobia and the ‘irrational fear of Muslims.’
Imam’s speech came after a call to prayer at 1.30pm NZT (11.30am AEDT) and was followed by a moment of silence.
As the call was broadcast around the country, thousands of people stood silently in a park opposite the mosque where the killing began, as the country of 4.5 million came to a standstill.
The massacre by alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant has shocked a nation known for its tolerance.
Armed police officers secure the perimeter before Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch
Imam thanked Ms Ardern (pictured) for ‘honouring us with a simple scarf’. He thanked the New Zealand government, the emergency services and neighbours ‘who opened their doors to save us from the killer’
It has prompted horrified Kiwis to respond with vigils and performances of the traditional Maori haka dance, and to form lines behind Muslims to symbolically protect them while they pray.
A mass burial of the victims is expected to take place on Friday after the Police Commissioner announced that all 50 victims of the attack had now been formally identified and their bodies could be released to family.
Up to 25 bodies have been washed in preparation for the burial at the city’s Memorial Park Cemetery.
More than a dozen victims have so far been buried after funerals on Wednesday and Thursday, including 71-year-old grandfather Haji-Daoud Nabi, whose final words – ‘Hello, brother’ – greeted the gunman who first attacked the Masjid al Noor mosque.
Three teenagers were also among those laid to rest.