Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gathered with local religious officials and hundreds of worshippers at Christchurch’s Hagley Park shortly after noon. Last week, a gunman opened fire at the Al Noor mosque just steps away from where people gathered Friday to honor their fallen citizens.
“New Zealand mourns with you,” Ardern, wearing a black headscarf, said before the prayer began. “We are one.”
The call to prayer is delivered five times a day, reminding Muslims that it is time to pray. Thousands across New Zealand were expected to be listening in on Friday, and the event was followed by two minutes of silence to honor the victims of the attack.
Gamal Fouda, the imam of the Al Noor mosque, spoke after the call to prayer was completed, saying a terrorist had sought “to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology.” A 28-year-old Australian man arrested after the attack allegedly shared a 74-page manifesto before it took place that included well-known white supremacist tropes and ideology.
“We have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable and that the world can see in us an example of love and unity,” Fouda said. “We are brokenhearted, but we are not broken. We are alive, we are together, we are determined to not let anyone divide us.”
New Zealand has taken dramatic action following the attack. Ardern announced Thursday that the country would ban the military-style semiautomatic weapons that had been used in the attack. The legislation is expected to easily pass and already has the support of New Zealand’s opposition party.
Ardern has been praised around the world for her empathy after the massacre. The prime minister has moved to end xenophobia throughout the country and championed religious freedom, often wearing a hijab as a sign of respect when meeting with grieving Muslim families. Ardern has a vowed to never mention the name of the attacker.
“He is a terrorist; he is a criminal; he is an extremist,” she said. “But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”
Fouda said Friday that he hoped unity throughout New Zealand after the attack would showcase the “beauty of Islam” and said honoring the victims of the massacre had “watered the seeds of hope.”
“We are here in our hundreds and thousands, unified for one purpose,” he said. “That hate will be undone, and love will redeem us.”