Day of reflection a week on from Christchurch mosque attacks: 'People's opinions will change'

1:28 pm on 22 March 2019

Christchurch people are hoping to find solidarity, hope and love today when they mark a week since the deadly mosque attacks in their city.

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Cashmere High School head girl Alice Tiso says the students will wear bright colours today - reflecting the vibrancy of the Muslim community. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

The government has organised two minutes of silence that will be observed nationwide after the Muslim call to prayer is broadcast at Hagley Park and on RNZ and other stations at 1.30pm.

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Dennis Andrews Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

In downtown Christchurch, Dennis Andrews said he knew some of the victims and he would be observing the two minutes of silence at Hagley Park.

"I'm going to be wearing both the black mourning band of Christianity and I understand the colour green is very important to the Muslim community so I'm going to be wearing that as well," he said.

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Danielle Gregan will be wearing a head scarf today to show her solidarity with Muslim women. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

In Linwood near the cordon surrounding one of the two attacked mosques, local woman Danielle Gregan said she had been coming to lay flowers every evening.

She said she would mark the silence but she would also wear a head scarf all day.

"It's something to unite us. I know that some Muslim women are feeling insecure about what's going on out there and they've had abuse at them before and they're nervous to walk around Christchurch. I myself am not Muslim, I just want to support the community."

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Marguerite Hall Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

Marguerite Hall is another who placed flowers at the Linwood Mosque and she said she would be going there to observe the two-minute silence.

"It's very important to be able to reflect on what's happened and be able to reflect on those that have lost their life because of one person. It's just horrible."

In the city, florist Carolyn Rushton said the silence would be a chance to show support for the victims of the attack and for everyone who is grieving.

"We will take the silence, the two-minute silence. We'll shut the shop and go out the front," she said. "People are sad at the moment and we've got to show the love to them."

Cashmere High School has been mourning the loss of two students and a former student who died in last Friday's killings.

The school's head girl, Alice Tiso, said students would be showing their solidarity by wearing the brightest colours they could find.

"We are having a mufti day where students are going to come wearing their brightest colours to show the vibrancy and support for the Muslim community," she said.

"Really just showing that it does not define us, that the love is stronger than the hate and we're really wanting to show the love through the visual representation of the colours."

Hundreds of other schools across the country were also expected to use bright colours to show their support after youth organisation 24-seven coordinated the event.

Less tolerance for racism

Christchurch people hope their city will be more accepting of difference and less tolerant of racism in the wake of last Friday's attacks.

Dennis Andrew said he hoped people would be more likely to confront racists.

"I think we're going to be stronger and looking out for the hate groups and speaking up when we find them. It's the only thing we can do. We can't go back to 'oh she'll be right mate', we can't go back to that because all we do if we do that is give these b*****ds the go-ahead."

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Christchurch residents Jamie Clark and Scott Craig. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

Jamie Clark said the attacks would make people more tolerant of other cultures. "People's opinions will change, people's mindsets and you know thinking twice about what people say and what people do," he said.

Scott Craig said he doubted die-hard racists would change, but he hoped most people would be more understanding of cultural differences.

"Hopefully it changes people's approach and opinion to immigrants to start with, and understanding that a lot of them have come from traumatic backgrounds to come here for peace and they haven't found that," Mr Clark said.

Brendan Chase said the stories of the victims had shown how much Muslims contributed to Christchurch society and that had to be good.

"These are remarkable people who have been caught up in this, surgeons, engineers, people who contribute greatly to our society and I think it's possibly humanised them. People can relate to them better as fellow citizens. It's a terrible way to arrive at that point but I do think that's quite a profound effect that will come out of this."

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