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

Just Posted

Williams Lake RCMP raise awareness for Auto Crime Enforcement Month

April 2019 is Auto Crime Enforcement Month, and the RCMP are asking the public to stay alert.

Owner of Pacific Grizzly offers cash reward to solve suspicious sinking

Bella Coola owner puts up $25,000 reward for information

Williams Lake Studio Theatre prepares a thoughtful drama with Cherry Docs

The drama takes a stark and at times harsh look at bigotry and prejudice

Petition calls for single-use plastics ban in Williams Lake

“It’s absolutely disgusting and we don’t need it”

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

Most Read