Thousands gather in Christchurch for remembrance service after mass shooting

Reuters Christchurch, New Zealand Mar 29, 2019, 06.43 AM(IST)

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with a victim's relative during the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand March 29, 2019 Photograph:( Reuters )

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who wore a Maori cloak known as a kakahu during the service, said the world had to end the vicious cycle of extremism

Thousands gathered 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, with speakers calling for the legacy of the tragedy to be a kinder, more tolerant New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who wore a Maori cloak known as a kakahu during the service, said the world had to end the vicious cycle of extremism.

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

'A beautiful garden'

Farid Ahmed, whose wife Husna was one of the 50 killed, told the crowd that, as a man of faith, 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.

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.

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

"We will get through this time and emerge a kinder, more compassionate place," Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said.

People needed to ask hard questions about what they may have done to harbour racism "because we now know where this ends", she said.

The massacre in Christchurch was carried out by a lone gunman at two mosques. 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.