There were emotional scenes as crowds gathered at mosques across Perth this afternoon to pay their respects to the 50 lives lost in the Christchurch massacre on March 15. About 1000 people joined in prayers at services held at the Perth Mosque. Others also gathered at the Thornlie Mosque and Masjid Ibrahim in Southern River.
Messages such as “Stay Strong”, “We stand Together”. “Don’t Give Into Hate” and “We are One Humanity” captured the spirit of a memorial service organised by WA’s Islamic community for the men, women and children slaughtered in the Christchurch massacre nine days ago.
On a large piece of cardboard that sat among so many flowers delivered to the William Street address over the past week, someone scrawled: “Who ever you are, wherever you’re from, I’m happy to have you as my neighbour.”
The City of Vincent used garbage trucks to block off a slab of the normally busy thoroughfare where Muslims and non-Muslims gathered for the moving 90-minute ceremony.
In what was as much a celebration of Maori culture as it was an eye-opener to the ways of Islam, people of all — and no — beliefs gathered, some to silently listen to the speakers, the songs, the dance, others to openly weep and hug strangers.
Singers from Haka for Life were joined by Corroboree for Life on the didgeridoo as people arrived about 1pm. More than 100 members took park in a Haka display.
The 106-year-old mosque was opened up for all comers, with many visitors removing their shoes to witness one of the five daily prayers of the Muslim faith. A small group of Maori women sat on the stairs to the main prayer room and sang beautiful lullabies to those who stood silently, respectfully in the courtyard.
Outside, a growing crowd, many of whom were wearing their Kiwi colours, watched Aboriginal dancing after a Welcome to Country, before 200 or so New Zealanders carried out a boisterous and emotional haka.
But the strongest and most spontaneous applause of the afternoon greeted one name: Jacinda Ardern.
Imam Mohammed Shakeeb said up until last week, he had never heard of the New Zealand Prime Minister but “I certainly have now”.
He added that he “wished we had more political leaders like that” who had the courage to confront hate speech, racism and intolerance.
The names of the 50 victims were read out to the crowd before a minute’s silence.