Thousands Gather in Christchurch for Remembrance Service After Mass Shooting

March 29, 2019 Updated: March 29, 2019

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand—Thousands stood in silence in a Christchurch park on Friday, March 29, as the names of 50 people shot dead in two mosques were read out at a national memorial service.

Dozens of representatives of governments from around the world joined New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the remembrance service in Hagley Park, near the Al Noor mosque where more than 40 of the victims were killed by a suspected white supremacist during Friday prayers on March 15.

“Our challenge now is to make the very best of us a daily reality. Because we are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, or others. We never have been,” said Ardern.

“But we can be the nation that discovers the cure. And so to each of us as we go from here, we have work to do,” she said.

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New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 29, 2019. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Ardern, who wore a Maori cloak known as a kakahu during the service, said the world had to end the vicious cycle of extremism and that it needed a global effort.

“The answer to them lies in a simple concept that is not bound by domestic borders, that isn’t based on ethnicity, power-base or even forms of governance. The answer lies in our humanity,” she said.

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New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Governor-General of New Zealand Patsy Reddy attend the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 29, 2019. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Security was tight around the service and New Zealand remains on high-security alert. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said it was one of the largest security events ever conducted by police in New Zealand.

“A Beautiful Garden”

Farid Ahmed, whose wife Husna was one of the 50 killed, told the crowd that, he had forgiven his wife’s killer because he did not want to have “a heart that is boiling like a volcano”.

“I want a heart that will be full of love and care and full of mercy and will forgive easily, because this heart doesn’t want any more lives to be lost,” he said to applause.

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People applaud for New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (unseen) during the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 29, 2019. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

He called for people to work together for peace and to change attitudes to see everyone as part of one family, using Christchurch’s nickname of the Garden City to make his point.

“I may be from one culture, you may come from another culture, I may have one faith, you may have one faith, but together we are a beautiful garden,” Ahmed said.

Kelly Smith, 52, from Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, said she found Ahmed’s speech beautiful.

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People attend the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 29, 2019. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

“I loved what he said: we’re all different flowers, but we all look pretty together and that’s so true,” she said.

Performers during the ceremony included Yusuf Islam, also known as Cat Stevens, who performed his song “Peace Train”.

Two young girls briefly took to the stage in an unscheduled appearance so one could read out her father’s name.

“He passed away on March 15 and he was a really nice man,” one of the unidentified girls said.

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A man reacts as the national anthem is played during the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 29, 2019. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

The massacre in Christchurch was carried out by a lone gunman who live streamed the attack on Facebook. Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one count of murder and is likely to face more charges when he reappears in court next Friday.

By Charlotte Greenfield

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