TODAY |

Christchurch mosque terror attacks: 12,000 Wellingtonians express solidarity at rally

A man who moved his family to this country from the United States to be safer says the Christchurch mosque attacks have "left an indelible mark in the history of New Zealand".

The National Symphony Orchestra played as about 12,000 Wellingtonians gathered in the Basin Reserve last night to pay respects to the victims and their families.

Among them was Hussain Suleman, who said intolerance had become widespread throughout the world.

"The reason we moved from the US was because basically we wanted a safe country and now all of a sudden we feel that 'did we make the right decision'."

Mr Suleman said intolerance had become universal and people needed to understand that tolerance was key.

His friend Zahada Davies is still in shock from the news and is struggling how to explain this to her 11-year-old twins.

"I moved to New Zealand before the kids were born, for the same reason because it's a safe place, want to bring the children up in a multicultural society, and now suddenly it feels like it's at risk."

Politicians of all stripes were among the crowd, which was addressed by the Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy, the city's mayor Justin Lester, members of the city's multicultural and multifaith councils and Sultan Eusoff from the Islamic Federation, who fought back tears when he talked of how the people were killed at their place of worship.

People carried signs with messages, including "there is no tolerance for intolerance", some young women wearing hijabs carried a sign saying "New Zealand is our home" and a group got out their prayer mats and prayed with their Imam.

Wellington-born Naseem Shariff said life had changed in New Zealand.

She described feeling lost: "When we have a tragedy in our community the first place we usually go is our mosque and our mosques are all closed."

Ms Shariff said when the mourning had finished, Muslim people needed to be accepted and the hate needed to stop. She hoped the outpouring of love happening at the moment continued.

Armed police were positioned among the crowd and flanking the entrances to the grounds were armed police.

Kate Gudsell 

rnz.co.nz

Crowds at the Basin Reserve last night paying respects to victims and their families
Crowds at the Basin Reserve last night paying respects to victims and their families Source: rnz.co.nz