Man shot nine times at Christchurch mosque recounts healing Mecca trip, relief to be back home in NZ

Christchurch mosque shooting survivor Temel Atacocugu has returned to New Zealand following a trip to Saudi Arabia's Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, for the hajj.

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Temel Atacocugu spoke to Breakfast about the trip and how it has helped his recovery process. Source: Breakfast

The trip was funded by Saudi Arabia's King Salman, who invited 200 Christchurch mosque terrorist attack survivors and the families of victims to go on a pilgrimage through the city.

Mr Atacocugu told TVNZ1's Breakfast several weeks ago that the visit, his first pilgrimage, would help with his healing process. He was shot nine times inside Al Noor mosque.

He said it feels "amazing" to return home following the pilgrimage, which he called "a long journey" that left him "speechless".

"I can't explain to the world [how] I'm feeling, but it's amazing," Mr Atacocugu said upon returning to Breakfast this morning.

"It's really helping me. When we were talking last time about my soul, about my mental health – that's really helping and I'm quite happy to be there.

"Islam is amazing. I can't explain, because I'm so excited to share my experience with the public, so that's quite nice."

He said confronting the atrocities through the pilgrimage was "mentally and physically" challenging, but "when you come back, you feel so relaxed and feel happy and it is a great, great, great time over there, too, and visiting the holy buildings and Mecca".

"It is unbelievable."

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Temel Atacocugu, who was shot nine times, spoke to TVNZ1’s Breakfast ahead of travelling to Mecca tomorrow. Source: Breakfast

He said he has "lots of nice" memories of his trip, adding, "Every single day, every single moment is amazing."

Mr Atacocugu said he has "lots of friends" in New Zealand who "don't have any idea about Islam or Mecca or hajj", but they have since learned about the faith after looking it up on the internet.

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They’re the first of 200 people making the all-expenses paid trip, courtesy of the Saudi King. Source: 1 NEWS

He said he was amazed when he spoke to a non-Muslim friend living in Wellington the other day who called him and said, 'Welcome back.'

"He is a non-Muslim, so a non-believer, but he's really, really sharing my experience … He has a deep, deep heart [to say], 'Welcome back, you're home’', so this is [an] amazing feeling.

"My friends are calling and say, 'Hey, how was your experience?' so it is [an] amazing feeling to be sharing" with New Zealand an understanding about Islam and the importance of the pilgrimage in the Muslim faith.

"I'm really happy to be shar[ing] my experience with you and with New Zealand, and then with my New Zealand friends. I can't explain to you what I can feel about this but this is really amazing."

He added, however, that it has taken some time for his children, who are teenagers, to overcome the attack, adding that they were "really affected" in the immediate aftermath.

He said when they saw him in the hospital, it wasn't "easy for them mentally".

He said while his children were worried about him in the five months following the attack, they "are slowly, slowly getting better" after receiving support from a psychologist.

"Of course, we are trying to spend time together, too, at weekends. They can see my recovery's going very well, so they [are] getting much better, too."

Mr Atacocugu said while it's taking some time, "they will be alright – and also me, too".

He said seeing his children getting better helps his recovery, too. 

"I'm really happy to be back to the home - home, sweet home," he said.