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'We let them down' - NZ politicians express shock, sorrow at Christchurch mosque massacres

Parliament was opened with an Arabic prayer as it sat for the first time since Friday's horrifying mosque attacks in Christchurch.

Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard led a multi-faith delegation into the chamber, with Nizam ul haq Thanvi, an Imam, speaking in Arabic, followed by an English version by Imam Tahir Nawaz. 

It was followed by a Te Reo Māori prayer.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered the first statement of condolence.

She opened with the Islamic greeting "As-salamu alaykum" meaning "peace be upon you".

"They were New Zealanders, they were us. Because they were us, we mourn them," she said.

"We cannot know your grief but we can walk with you at every stage."

She paid tribute to those who tried to stop the alleged attacker, and the police who arrested him 

"The arrest itself was nothing short than an act of bravery."

She said she would never mention the alleged perpetrator's name.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said none of us would be the same again.

"We let them down and for that we are sorry."

"Every New Zealander feels this wasn't just something targeted at our Islamic community... it has happened to all New Zealanders, and all New Zealanders are grieving with them."

Winston Peters said Friday was the "day everything changed in our country".

"New Zealand is not alone, but the terrorist formula is always the same."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said:

"I acknowledge the lives cruelly taken and badly injured in our Muslim community by a terrorist attack driven by anti-Islamic hatred.

"You were praying. You were in the most profoundly peaceful state of harmony and compassion that a human can be in.

"We must work together, all of us, to become an Aotearoa where everyone is safe to pray, or not, an Aotearoa where people are safe to be who they are."

Act leader David Seymour said it was shocking that New Zealand could end up in the "bad news" section of international newspapers.

He disagreed with the sentiment New Zealand had changed for ever, however.

"The terrorist may not like it but we will never back down from our beliefs."

Imam Nizam ul haq Thanvi at Parliament Source: Parliament TV