CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Lamenting that “the world has been caught in a vicious cycle of extremism breeding extremism,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand stated at a nationwide memorial service for the Christchurch assault victims on Friday that the damaging cycle “should finish.”
Ms. Ardern’s name for a collective world response to violence and terrorism — based mostly in “our humanity” — got here two weeks after a gunman killed 50 worshipers in assaults on two mosques within the metropolis.
Her speech mirrored questions that New Zealanders have been wrestling with because the shock of the assault has begun to fade: specifically, how deeply extremist sentiments have taken root within the nation, and the right way to stop such violence from taking place once more.
“The ugliest of viruses can exist in locations they don’t seem to be welcome,” Ms. Ardern stated, including that racism, violence, extremism and assaults on freedom of worship have been “not welcome right here.”
An estimated 20,000 folks attended the occasion in Hagley Park, not removed from one of many mosques that have been focused on March 15. Safety was tight; buses have been used to dam off all close by roads, with cordons guarded by armed police models and officers circulating via the gang. Whereas the service was broadcast at simultaneous occasions round New Zealand, some gatherings have been canceled amid safety fears and overstretched police sources.
Amid the laborious questions on the service, there was additionally celebration of survival — and religion. Fariz Ahmed, a wheelchair-bound man whose spouse, Husna Ahmed, ran again into Al Noor mosque in hope of saving him and was killed, spoke on behalf of these within the mosques who lived via the assault.
“I can’t deny the truth that he’s my human brother,” Mr. Ahmed stated of the person who killed his spouse. “I don’t hate him. I can’t hate him. I can’t hate anybody.”
Together with dignitaries from 59 nations — together with Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison — the survivors and households of the victims sat in a fenced-off space on the entrance of the occasion. Some couldn’t attend, together with 22 victims of the assaults who stay hospitalized as they get well from accidents.
For some, the memorial service got here as their prolonged households — who had traveled to Christchurch from around the globe — started to depart, leaving them to confront new realities.
The night earlier than the service, Ambreen Naeem sat in the lounge of her sister’s residence in suburban Christchurch as cooking smells lingered and her 5-year-old son performed close by. Pals dropped by with about 20 meals for the household’s freezer.
One necessary activity for Ms. Naeem, 44, will probably be studying to drive. Each her husband, Naeem Rashid, 51, and her eldest son, Talha Naeem, 21, have been killed at Al Noor mosque. Mr. Rashid, a college lecturer, has grow to be recognized for having tried to wrestle the gunman’s weapon from him.
“He had a real religion and a love for folks all through his life,” Ms. Naeem stated.
After Friday’s service, some within the crowd wandered throughout the park to Al Noor mosque, the place mounds of flowers, paper garlands and mementos encircled timber and sat piled towards the mosque’s entrance fence.
As common, worshipers have been arriving for Friday Prayer; it was the primary held on the mosque for the reason that terror assault, and all the things was totally different. Armed law enforcement officials guarded a closed gate, and members of the general public stood outdoors studying notes and tributes.
Habib Ullah, one of many worshipers, stated the principle room of the mosque was nonetheless being refurbished — carpet had not but been laid — however folks nonetheless turned out for prayer. There was a way of household, however a way, too, that the survivors of the assaults had far more left to face.
“They may want all the things,” stated Mr. Ullah, a member of Christchurch’s Pakistani neighborhood who has been serving to arrange help for the victims’ households. “They may want 1000’s and 1000’s of issues.”
9 Pakistani nationals have been killed within the assault, and Mr. Ullah stated most have been males between the ages of 30 and 40 who had youngsters.
Among the many chief issues of their widows, he stated, have been paying lease, discovering technique of earnings, and clarifying their standing as immigrants — all of which the federal government has promised help for.
Nevertheless, some didn’t know sufficient English to fill out authorities varieties and didn’t have entry to their husbands’ financial institution accounts. The Muslim Affiliation of Canterbury was forming a gaggle on the Al Noor mosque to attach households with providers.
Mustafa Farouk, the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, stated Muslim communities consumed by each grief and gratitude for New Zealanders’ response to the assaults should now have a troublesome dialog with the remainder of the nation.
“We are going to get all the way down to our actually critical enterprise of how we are able to ensure this doesn’t occur in our nation once more,” he stated. “There’s an underbelly of some form of racism that exists, however we wish to collectively stamp it out.”
Ms. Ardern on Monday introduced a serious investigation into the terrorist assault, with authorities businesses — together with these accountable for safety — amongst these underneath scrutiny. Questions will embody whether or not New Zealand’s spy businesses had Muslim communities underneath nearer examination than white nationalist teams.
She has additionally taken steps to overtake New Zealand’s gun legal guidelines and demanded actions from the social media platforms the place the alleged gunman, Brenton Tarrant, was capable of stream footage of the assault.
However she has urged New Zealanders, too, to confront racism the place they see it.
“We every maintain the facility, in our phrases and in our actions, in our every day acts of kindness,” she advised the gang at Hagley Park, including that that the legacy of the assault must be “to be the nation we imagine ourselves to be.”