Shooting Survivor Has A Message For Christchurch Gunman
Farid Ahmed's wife was shot dead while she was at prayer at a Christchurch mosque two weeks ago.
Ahmed told the crowd at the 'Ko Tātou, Tātou, We Are One' service for those killed during the Christchurch massacre that he decided to forgive the gunman for killing his wife.
"I believe in Allah and Allah says that if we forgive one another, then he loves me, he loves us," Ahmed said.
"This heart doesn't like the pain I have gone through, that any human being should go through that kind of pain. That's why I have chosen peace. I have chosen love and I have forgiven."
Ahmed also spoke sympathetic words towards gunman Brenton Tarrant.
"I cannot deny the fact that he is my human brother," Ahmed said.
"I don't agree with what he has done. I don't support what he has done. Probably he has misunderstood the whole thing."
Shortly after Ahmed's speech, the names of all 50 people killed in the massacre were read to the crowd.
A sea of mourners arrived at Christchurch's Hagley Park for a national service two weeks after the mosque massacre where 50 people died.
The service commenced at 10 am local time (8 am AEST) in the park directly opposite the Al Noor Mosque, one of the locations where Brenton Tarrant opened fire on Muslims while they were at prayer.
It started with a call for the people of New Zealand to "commence your return back to the world of light".
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the crowd some of the few words that bought her personal comfort over the last 14 days are "al-Salam Alaikum, peace be upon you".
"They were words spoken by a community who in the face of hate and violence had every right to express anger, but instead, opened their doors for all of us to grieve with them and so we say to those who have lost the most, we may not always have had the words," Ardern said.
Ardern also said she hopes New Zealand can continue to set a global example in their united fight against hate and extremism. She said the last two weeks show how solidarity can be born from hatred.
" ... we are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of others, we never have been. But we can be the nation that discovers the cure," Ardern said.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel thanked groups involved in responding to the massacre in the aftermath of the shooting.
These included first responders, funeral organisers, and hospital staff. She also thanked the Imams for including the wider New Zealand population in their call to prayer last Friday.
"And we call upon the social media platforms to take even more responsibility for ensuring that such atrocities cannot be live-streamed and that messages of hate that fuel attacks on members of any community cannot be shared," Dalziel said.
Hate has no place here, hate has no place anywhere.
Earlier, Prime Minister Jadinca Ardern said she hopes the service will help New Zealanders start to move forward from the tragedy.
"I want to acknowledge that New Zealand is now on the beginning of a journey," she said.
"We have never been free of racism. We have never been free of violent ideology but our over-riding values are ones of fairness, compassion and diversity."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, opposition leader Bill Shorten and Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove will attend the service as Australian representatives. Delegates from another 60 nations will also attend.
Musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, performed at the service.
Prince William announced he will visit Christchurch next month.
The Muslim community was at the centre of the service and, while a number of faith leaders attended, they were not named ahead of time for security reasons.
Local media reported there were high-level security preparations for the event. According to the Australian Associated Press, the Australian Federal Police were reportedly involved in security efforts.
Last Friday, Hagley Park was also transformed into a prayer and memorial space.
Muslims answer the call to pray at Hagley Park, opposite Al Noor Mosque. Image: AAP
The Muslim Call to Prayer followed by two minutes of silence marked one week since the terror attack. The Call to Prayer was broadcast on New Zealand television and radio stations and live streamed around the world.
Contact Siobhan at firstname.lastname@example.org.