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POSTED AT 07:25 AM 23-03-2019

New Zealand falls silent, a week after massacres

New Zealand mourned the 50 victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks on Friday.

NEW ZEALAND: The Muslim call to prayer rang out across New Zealand yesterday followed by two minutes of silence nationwide to mark a week since a white supremacist gunned down 50 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

As the call was broadcast around the country, thousands of people -- including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern -- stood silently in a park opposite the mosque where the killing began, as the country of 4.5 million came to a standstill.

The massacre by alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant has shocked a nation known for its tolerance.

It has prompted horrified Kiwis to respond with vigils and performances of the traditional Maori haka dance, and to form lines behind Muslims to symbolically protect them while they pray.

A muezzin in white skullcap issued the call to regular Friday prayer at 1.30 pm with chants of “Allahu Akhbar” (God is greatest) as thousands listened in Christchurch’s Hagley Park across from the Al Noor Mosque.

The country then fell silent for two minutes, with public gatherings in Auckland, Wellington and other cities.

In neighbouring Australia, people stopped in the streets and in shops to mark the moment.

Al Noor imam Gamal Fouda then took to the lectern to denounce hatred, but also to praise the sense of Kiwi togetherness that the killings have sparked.

“I look out and I see the love and compassion in the eyes of thousands of fellow New Zealanders and human beings from across the globe,” he said.

“This terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology that has torn the world apart. But, instead, we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable.” Many women in attendance wore headscarves in solidarity with New Zealand’s Muslim community.

Kirsty Wilkinson joined the throng at Hagley Park along with two female friends, all in make-shift hijabs. The sombre ceremonies came a day after Ardern announced an immediate ban on assault rifles and military-style semi-automatic weapons, making good on a pledge to rid the country of the kinds of weapons used in the slaughter.

Police and tradesmen had been working intensively in the hope of repairing the mosque’s bullet-scarred and blood-spattered interior ahead of afternoon prayers.

The national mourning and moment of silence were broadcast on television networks, radio and across multiple local media websites. - AFP