THOUSANDS have gathered near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch to honour the 50 victims of the Christchurch terror attack, one week one from the tragedy.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was among the crowd congregated in a leafy park nearby to observe the fall to prayer early on Friday afternoon (local time).
Thousands more were listening in on the radio or watching on television as the event was broadcast live. The prayer was followed by two minutes of silence.
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Imam Gamal Fouda addressed the crowd with a moving speech, talking of the unity and strength of the country following the senseless tragedy.
“Last week, I saw hatred and rage in the eyes of the terrorist. Today from the same place I look out and I see the love and compassion in the eyes of thousands,” Fouda said to the crowd.
“This terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology that has torn the world apart but in this tent we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable and that the world can see in us an example of love and unity.
“We are broken-hearted but we are not broken.
“We are alive. We are together.
“We are determined to not let anyone divide us. We are determined to love one another and to support each other.
“This evil ideology of white supremacy did not strike us first. Yet, it has struck us hardest.”
He offered words of comfort to the familes of the 50 people who lost their lives last Friday.
“To the families of the victims your loved ones did not die in vain. Their blood has watered the seeds of hope. Through them the world will see the beauty of Islam and the beauty of our unity.”
Fouda also offered a heartfelt thanks to Prime Minister Ardern, who has been a pillar of strength and a fearless leader across the past seven days.
“Thank you for your leadership,”: he said.
“It was been a lesson for the world leaders.
“Thank you for holding our families close and honouring us with a simple scarf. Thank you for your words and tears of compassion. Thank you for being one with us.
“Thank you to the New Zealand government and to all the wonderful people who have shown us that we matter and are not forgotten.
“Thank you to our police force and front-line services. You put our lives before your own everyday.
“Thank you to the neighbours who opened their doors to save us from the killer. Thank you to those who pulled over their cars to help us. Thank you to those who brought us food and helped us when we found it difficult to stand.
“Thank you New Zealand for teaching the world what it means to love and care.”