New Zealand just like 'rest of the world' after deadly mosque attacks

Two days after being rocked by mosque shootings that left 50 people dead, New Zealanders were still in mourning, showing solidarity with the Muslim community and defying everything the attack stood for.

Christchurch, New Zealand (dpa) – On Sunday morning, Christchurch’s "Cardboard Cathedral" - built after the city's main Anglican church was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake - marked its second tragedy.

Arriving in the A-shaped modernist building for the regularly scheduled service, churchgoers were handed stickers bearing a green heart with the slogan #GiveNothingToHate, a message of solidarity to the Muslim community and defiance towards the 28-year-old Australian white supremacist who killed 50 worshippers in two nearby mosques.  
"Today, we stand with our Muslim brothers," said Lawrence Kimberley, the church’s dean. "We learned during the earthquakes that in times of trial, it is good to reach out to each other. It is time to do this again."
Following the service, Richard Parker, a deacon and member of the congregation for 12 years, bemoaned that New Zealand had lost "the best advantage it ever had."
He said the gunman had chosen New Zealand and Christchurch because it was a safe place. The country, geographically isolated from the world's major conflicts and maladies, had always been peaceful.
"Before, when people landed from Frankfurt, they thought 'Wow I've just landed in a place free of terrorism.' Now, it won't be a holiday for anybody," said Parker. "There's no advantage coming here now. It’s just like the rest of the world."
Nearby, at the wall outside the Botanic Gardens that has become the city's main memorial site, people continued to lay flowers and tributes, including bunches of ferns. A group of Christians stood praying in a circle, families brought their children and pets. And dazed-looking nurses from the hospital just metres away, where many victims of the shootings were still being treated, came too.
"The guy who did this wanted to give some kind of strong message, but the message he gave was not the one he wanted to give," said Peter Beck, who was dean of Christchurch during the earthquake. "THIS is the message," he said, motioning at the scene or tributes around him.
Beck reluctantly acknowledged that New Zealand would need to change after the shootings.
"The earthquake was a natural disaster, it was horrific, but this is evil," he said. "We can't just ignore it – this is what happens. We need to step up and face it, but we must never become who we hate."
Later on Sunday afternoon, at the police cordon close to the Al Noor Mosque, the mood was still one of raw grief.
Members of the Canterbury United football club, wearing the team's red-and-white tracksuits, gathered to mourn the death of futsal goalkeeper Atta Elayyan, who was shot dead while praying in the mosque. The 33-year-old, originally from Kuwait, had also played 19 matches for New Zealand's national side. He is survived by his wife and young daughter.
The Canterbury futsal team's manager, Martin Mitchell, broke down in tears when he told journalists that Atta was "like a son" to him.
"I've known him for years and years - he'll never leave my heart, New Zealand futsal's heart. He would give you the shirt off his back if he had to. It's such a waste."
Elayyan's teammates, most of them in tears, formed a large circle next to a pile of flowers and signs, bowed their heads in silence for a minute, before breaking into an extended round of applause.
Before leaving, team members left a jersey with messages for the goalkeeper written on it.
"Every save will be celebrated in your name," said one.


Sunday, March 17th 2019
By Peter Godfrey,

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