'Friendship over fear' - man who's placard went viral sends message of hope to Christchurch

The English man who went viral by holding a sign outside a Manchester mosque has explained his reasons behind his gesture of kindness, after promising to watch over Muslims while they prayed.

After Friday's horrific terror attacks in Christchurch that left 50 people dead and dozens more injured, Manchester's Andrew Graystone was pictured outside a mosque, holding a placard which has since gone viral.

"You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray," Mr Graystone's sign read.

Appearing on TVNZ1's Breakfast today Mr Graystone said that his intention was to simply show his support for the Muslim community, and never dreamed of capturing worldwide attention in the way that he has.

"I woke up on Friday morning to hear the desperate news from Christchurch, and thought 'how would it feel to be a Muslim living in our community'," he said.

"I guess I might be feeling a little bit threatened today. I thought maybe I could just go and stand outside our local mosque and just smile at people as they come in - then I thought that's going to look a little bit weird, I should take something with me.

"So I grabbed an old bit of cardboard, and I scribbled a message on it with a marker pen, and I went and stood by the mosque to show it to people as they came in for Friday prayers."

While Mr Graystone's message was initially met with trepidation, it didn't take long until people realised it was in fact one of love and friendship.

"As people walked up to the mosque I think a few people thought 'what's going on here? Is this some kind of protester or something?'"

"But when they started to read the sign, you could see them melt, and there was a warmth and smiles. Then they went into the mosque for prayers, I stood and waited in the gateway, looking up and down the road. While they were in the mosque, the Imam apparently mentioned me in his sermon, having walked past me on the way in.

"When people came out, everyone wanted to shake my hand or slap me on the back. It was a great atmosphere. Someone even game me a pot of chicken biryani."

Thinking nothing more of it, Mr Graystone returned home, unaware that the image of his placard was being shared around the world.

"I don't know who had taken a photograph, and later that afternoon they posted it online, and during the day and since then I've begun to get messages from people all over the world. Tens of thousands. Isn't that bonkers?"

"It just feels to me like we have a choice to make, between friendship and fear.

"Our hearts are breaking for you, and for people in Christchurch. But we know that if you choose friendship over fear, you can rebuild. You can be strong again."

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    Andrew Graystone captured attention for his placard outside his local mosque. Source: Breakfast