New Zealand remembers victims of Christchurch mosque attacks after two years

Orchestral piece Gabriel’s Oboe performed by Burnside High School, Video by Chris Li

 

By Li Huizi 

An official remembrance service was held on Saturday to mourn the death of 51 people as a result of the terrorist shootings at two mosques on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand’s South Island.

Many others were injured and traumatized in the event two years ago when Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern called it “New Zealand’s darkest day.”

Last year’s National Remembrance Service to mark the first anniversary was cancelled due to COVID-19. The second anniversary service, which were attended by about 1,000 people, became the first national memorial held after the tragic incident.

With the country currently at COVID-19 Alert Level 1, this year’s event can proceed. Measures was put in place to help keep people safe, including encouraging physical distancing and people using the NZ COVID tracer apps.

Those most affected by the attacks, including survivors and families of the victims, told their stories at the event, named “Ko Tātou, Tātou, We Are One.” The service was live-streamed for those who could not attend.

It is an opportunity to remember those who died in the attacks on the Christchurch mosques two years ago, organizers said. The service was jointly led by the local Muslim community, the government, and other social groups.

Those who died in the attacks was honored in a Portrait of Remembrance on screen at the event, while the names of the 51 men, women and children killed in the shooting were read out, and a minute’s silence was observed.

Ardern told the crowds of people, “Much has been said, but words, despite their healing power will never change what happened that day. Words will not bring back those men, women and children who gathered at their place of worship, quietly and peacefully when they were taken in an act of terror.”

“Words will not take away the trauma that families, those who were injured, first responders, passersby who became rescuers and so many others experienced that day. But while words cannot perform miracles, they do have a power to heal. That means we must use them wisely,” said the prime minister.

“There will be an unquestionable legacy from March 15. Much of it will be heart breaking. But it’s never too early or too late for the legacy to be a more inclusive nation, one that stands proud of our diversity, embraces it, and if called to, defends it stanchly,” she said.

Mayor of Christchurch Lianne Dalziel said the second anniversary is an opportunity for people to come together in unity, as they did in the wake of the attacks.

“We can join together to remember those who died and were injured and traumatized, along with the people who responded, from bystanders to the emergency services and hospital staff. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the response which rejected hatred and division and embraced love, compassion and unity,” Dalziel said.

Photo by Chris Li