The Muslim burial ceremony for the victims of the recent terrorist attacks targeting two mosques in New Zealand has begun with the funeral two members of a Syrian family, who had fled war back home and taken refuge in the city of Christchurch.
On Wednesday, hundreds of mourners gathered near the Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch — one of two places that were struck in a shooting attack last week — for the funeral ceremony of Syrian refugee Khalid Mustafa and his 16-year-old son, Hamza.
The father and son were among 50 people who were killed on Friday by Australian terrorist Brenton Tarrant, who opened fire on worshipers during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch.
Mustafa’s younger son, Zaid, 13, was also wounded in the shooting but survived.
The bodies, wrapped in white cloths, were laid to rest after being carried in open caskets on the shoulders of mourners into a large tent at Christchurch’s Memorial Park Cemetery.
The ceremony was held in the presence of heavily-armed police, who stood guard with flowers attached to their rifles.
Graves dug, families anxious to receive bodies
Dozens of graves have been prepared in the city’s cemetery for families to bury their loved ones after receiving the bodies.
Islamic tradition calls for a deceased person to be buried as soon as possible after death.
Seven days on, the bodies of only six victims have been returned to families.
Police say they are working with families to identify the bodies and return them for burial.
According to police commissioner Mike Bush, 21 victims were identified by late Tuesday.
There are victims who have ties to Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Ardern, who has been widely praised for her response to the tragedy, announced two minutes of silence on Friday, March 22, which will mark one week since the terrorist attack.
On the day, which Muslims will gather for prayers, the Islamic call to prayers will also be broadcast on national TV and radio.
“There is a desire to show support for the Muslim community as they return to mosques on Friday,” said the world’s youngest female head of government, who has been standing alongside her people since the massacre occurred.
Ardern, 37, has impressed many, both at home and overseas, after she personally met with the grieving and desperate families of the victims on Saturday wearing hijab — the Muslim women’s modest clothing.
On Wednesday, she also visited Cashmere High School, which lost three students in the attack.
She asked the students to help her rid the nation of racism and implored them “never to mention the perpetrator’s name… never remember him for what he did.”
She also vowed not to speak the gunman’s name in order to deny him “notoriety.”
Ardern has also been praised for taking speedy steps to tighten gun laws in order to make New Zealand “a safer” country. She said on Monday that her cabinet members had agreed “in principle” to reform gun laws, which she said would be announced within days.
The terrorist was charged with one account of murder at Christchurch District Court on Saturday. He was remanded without a plea and is due to return to court on April 5. Police say he is likely to face further charges.
According to the prime minster, the gunman had traveled around the world and was not a long-term resident. She has assured that he would “face the full force of the law.”
An Israeli official said on Tuesday that Tarrant had paid a nine-day visit to Israel back in October 2016.