Women react as the New Zealand national anthem is sung during a national remembrance service in Hagley Park for the victims of the March 15 mosque terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

At memorial, mosque shooting survivor says he forgives attacker

Farid Ahmed, whose wife was killed in the Christchurch shooting, said he forgave the shooter

A man who survived New Zealand’s mosque attacks told a crowd of about 20,000 people on Friday that he forgives the terrorist who killed his wife and 49 others.

Farid Ahmed was speaking at a national remembrance service held in Christchurch to commemorate those who died in the attacks two weeks ago.

“I don’t want to have a heart that is boiling like a volcano,” Ahmed said. “A volcano has anger, fury, rage. It doesn’t have peace. It has hatred. It burns itself within, and also it burns the surroundings. I don’t want to have a heart like this.”

Ahmed said that while he didn’t agree with the gunman’s actions, his Muslim faith taught him that even the terrorist was his brother.

The name of Ahmed’s wife, Husna Ahmed, was among the 50 read out by members of the Muslim community during a solemn part of the service.

It was the third major memorial held in Christchurch since the March 15 slaughter of worshippers who were inside the two mosques for Friday prayers. Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder in the attacks.

The latest memorial service was a more formal occasion, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other foreign dignitaries attending.

Morrison later told reporters the service “was a thing of absolute beauty.”

New Zealand’s police force put on a show of force, closing down nearby streets and patrolling the park with semi-automatic weapons. But the atmosphere was relaxed during the 90-minute commemoration held on a sunny morning in Hagley Park.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who wore an indigenous Maori cloak, said the world had been stuck in a vicious cycle of extremism which must end. She said her country had learned the stories of those impacted by the attacks.

“They were stories of bravery. They were stories of those who were born here, grew up here, or who had made New Zealand their home. Who had sought refuge, or sought a better life for themselves or their families,” she said. “These stories, they now form part of our collective memories. They will remain with us forever. They are us.”

The featured musical guest was British singer Yusuf Islam, also known as Cat Stevens, who converted to Islam in 1977.

“We learn about things through their opposites,” the singer said. “And it’s through opposites like this, the evilness of that act and what drove it, we find its opposite, which is the love and kindness and unity that has sprung up right here in New Zealand.”

A particularly poignant moment came when a girl named Salma, the daughter of slain worshipper Ashraf El-Moursy Ragheb, briefly got up on stage to remember her dad.

“He was a really nice man,” she said.

READ MORE: Facebook extends ban on hate speech to ‘white nationalists’

READ MORE: ‘It doesn’t open’: Christchurch mosque survivors describe terror at door

Nick Perry, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Town grants Chamber $20K

Chamber estimates up to $65K in lost revenue, turns to council for help

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

New Salt Boutique the realization of a vision for owner Caroline Marko

Marko combines the rough and the soft in a minimalist, clean airy space

Coastal GasLink pipeline work ramps up

With spring thaw ending, workers start to arrive for summer season

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Most Read