Public gather at Hagley Park with messages of solidarity

7:49 pm on 22 March 2019

They came from all points of Hagley Park and they came in their thousands. Streams of people stretching back as far as the eye could see.

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Photo: Photo / Robin Martin / RNZ

Men in suits, women wearing headscarves - some for the first time - patched gang members, toddlers in pushchairs, and hundreds in the traditional dress of a culture less familiar.

They've come to hear the call to prayer.

They've come in response to a dark, dark day in New Zealand history.

The murder of 50 innocent individuals. Killed when they should've felt most safe, at prayer in their place of worship.

United States visitor Rachel, who only gave her first name, said she felt had to be there.

"Just to show solidarity and support for the Muslim community and for the victims and their families.

"To see the crowd of people and the numbers of people who've shown up to be with them on the first Friday since the attacks, I think that's really important."

Aucklander Fzeel Basha had an uncle killed in last week's attack while another was injured.

Aucklander Fzeel Basha.

Aucklander Fzeel Basha. Photo: Photo / Robin Martin / RNZ

He was impressed by the turnout.

"It's very important. The amount of crowd that's gathered here today is just amazing. It shows everyone is united whatever race, colour or religion.

"Everyone is united, everyone is here. Even some of the gang members are here."

Mr Basha said the call to prayer a week on was significant.

"We have this five times a day every day, but just to remember what took place here last Friday and to unite the country it's important, yeah."

Then comes the instruction to sit.

We shuffle to ground and the Prime Minister speaks. "We are one", she says.

A silence comes over the crowd, broken only the occasional tears and the plaintive cries of a man with a picture of his dead brother clapped to his chest as he heads to the front.

"He picked this country because it's paradise. He told me many, many times. Thank you, thank you."

And then the evocative call to prayer rings out over Hagley Park - that so at once familiar but yet other worldly call. Perhaps no longer.

As we sit members of the Muslim community continue to file to the front to pray. These people who live among us but who often go unnoticed. Perhaps no longer.

We are welcomed as brothers and sisters in Islam, as brothers and sisters in humanity. We are told New Zealand is "broken-hearted but not broken" and applause ripples through the crowd.

Liz Richardson with her dog Toby.

Liz Richardson with her dog Toby. Photo: Photo / Robin Martin / RNZ

Liz Richardson had been walking through the park with her dog Toby when the shots rang out last Friday.

At the service's conclusion, tears running down her face, Ms Richardson said the message of love and peace had touched her.

"It was overwhelming as normal with New Zealand pulling together. It was extremely peaceful and I just have so much respect for the Muslim community because they must be terrified."

A Christian, Ms Richardson had chosen to wear a headscarf.

"I'm wearing the scarf for unity and support. And it's a silent voice that I have to absolutely support these people and I'm proud to be here wearing it today."

Shareen Quayyum of Auckland also lost family members in the attack.

As the crowd dispersed she wanted people to take a simple message away with them.

"We are one. Kia Kaha New Zealand."

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