New Zealanders observed the Muslim call to prayer Friday in reflecting on the moment one week ago when 50 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques were killed and scores of others wounded.
In a day without precedent, people across New Zealand listened to the call to prayer on live broadcasts while thousands, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, gathered in leafy Hagley Park opposite the Al Noor mosque.
“New Zealand mourns with you. We are one,” Ardern stated.
Al Noor was one of the two places of worship targeted in the city during the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history, allegedly carried out by Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, along with the Linwood mosque.
The Al Noor mosque’s imam, Gamal Fouda, thanked New Zealanders for their support, saying that “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 the city estimated at 20,000 people erupted with applause.
Many of those who arrived to pray in Christchurch had travelled from all over New Zealand, home to about five million people, and elsewhere across the world.
Thousands of non-Muslims attended the ceremony, forming a sea of silence behind the prayer areas while Muslims worshipped, close to a police cordon restricting access to the mosque. Among them, many women of all backgrounds opted to wear headscarves in a show of solidarity with the Muslim community.
Remembrance ceremonies and public vigils took place across the Pacific nation on Friday.
The Muslim burial ceremony for the victims of the recent terrorist attacks has also 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 Friday, an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand and the fight against Islamophobia was held in Istanbul. Representatives from the UN, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have reportedly been invited to the event.
The emergency meeting comes following a phone conversation between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier this week, in which they censured the “heinous crime”.
Cavusoglu said Turkey will stand up against all forms of hate speech, violence and terrorism, adding that no religion or belief can be defined by violence and terror.
He stressed that peace is at the core of Islam.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters told the summit that the christchurch terrorist will spend the rest of his life in a jail cell behind bars.
He said his country attached great importance to freedom of religious belief, adding that the attacks on Muslims “are attacks on all of us”.
Also speaking at the meeting, OIC Secretary-General Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen announced that terror had no language, religion or race, and urged action to stem anti-Muslim hate speech.
He stressed that the attacks in New Zealand were a “turning point” for Muslims, noting that Muslim nations will not be deterred from taking steps to curb violence.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Muslim nations must take action against developments threatening the future of humanity.
Erdogan also praised Ardern’s reaction to the terror attacks, calling it a model for all leaders around the world.
“Humanity should fight Islamophobia with same determination it fought anti-Semitism after the Holocaust,” he added.
Erdogan thanked New Zealand authorities, people, premier for showing the truth, their firm stand against the terrorist attacks on the mosques.
On Wednesday, hundreds of mourners gathered near the Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch for the funeral ceremony of Syrian refugee Khalid Mustafa and his 16-year-old son, Hamza. 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.
Both the Linwood and Al Noor mosques are also expected to reopen on Saturday, a spokesperson for New Zealand Police noted. A “March for Love” rally is also scheduled to take place in Christchurch on Saturday. Thousands of people are expected to attend.
Last Friday, a gunman killed 50 people after opening fire at two mosques in the town of Christchurch in Eastern New Zealand. The New Zealand’s prime minister called the shooting a terrorist act, saying it was the country’s “darkest day”.