Muslims mark fifth anniversary of Christchurch mosque terror attacks

By Tim Brown of RNZ

Canterbury's Muslim community will on Friday gather to commemorate the Christchurch mosque shootings.

On March 15, 2019, a gunman opened fire at Masjid Annur and the Linwood Islamic Centre.

Within about quarter of an hour, he had massacred or mortally wounded 51 worshippers.

Dozens more were injured.

This year's fifth anniversary falls on Jumu'ah - the mandatory Islamic Friday prayer.

It was that occasion five years ago which the terrorist targeted.

Abdur Razzaq, of the Federation of Islamic Associations, said Friday was a solemn but important day.

"But let's not forget, for the survivors and whānau the trauma is ongoing - it's every day, not just on March 15."

The day would be commemorated by Muslims throughout the country.

In Christchurch, worshippers would mark Jumu'ah ahead of a commemoration service at Masjid Annur in the evening.

It would be attended by the communities of both mosques, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Opposition leader Chris Hipkins, Sir William Young - who chaired the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attacks, as well as representatives from Government agencies and local schools and first responders.

"It will be to respect and remember the shuhada and the survivors," Razzaq said.

Abdur Razzaq.
Abdur Razzaq. Photo credit: File

There were three themes underlying the event - the wellbeing and welfare of survivors and the memory of the shuhada (the martyrs of the attack); remembering and reaffirming the aroha shown by the wider New Zealand community in response to the attack; and to remember the lessons learned.

"We have to understand that hate is out there. We have to work through our differences, but diversity is important - it provides a rich tapestry for our culture in New Zealand," Razzaq said. "We have to appreciate each other's differences and respect that."

Recalling the support and outpouring of grief from New Zealand in response to the attack was also very important, he said. 

"It was... the start of the healing process," Razzaq said. "It brought the whole of New Zealand together and it's not only enduring, but also very much endearing for all of us."

The support of Aotearoa was also at the forefront of Farid Ahmed's mind.

Farid Ahmed.
Farid Ahmed. Photo credit: Newshub.

Ahmed was a survivor of the shooting at Masjid Annur but his wife was killed in the attack.

He commanded international respect and recognition in the wake of the terror attack by publicly forgiving the gunman and calling for everyone to follow a path of peace and forgiveness.

Friday's commemorations were an opportunity to remember the victims and the way the tragedy brought the country together, Ahmed said.

"New Zealand has made a remarkable example after March 15 and they have become world champions in compassion.

"Those are the things that even today move me and tomorrow it will move me and I know that this is the feeling of our Muslim community."

He was also proud of the example set by Muslims around Aotearoa and in Christchurch in particular.

"After the great pain and suffering they took, they have done the right thing and the right thing is they took the path of peace - without any violence, without hate for hate, without cruelty for cruelty," Ahmed said.

"They have also shown their compassion. That we can go through the pain but we should do the right thing."