Christchurch terror attacks: Symbolic human 'walls' planned around reopened mosques
Ben Strang, Reporter
Thousands of people are pledging to form human chains outside mosques tomorrow, as Muslims head inside to pray.
A large crowd attending a Wellington vigil after the shootings at two Christchurch mosques. Photo: RNZ
The police in Christchurch are hoping to reopen the Al Noor Mosque in Deans Ave in time for Friday prayer, one week from the terror attack which left 50 people dead.
Some affected families are eager to return, to pray for their loved ones and for their own safety. But others can't fathom returning to their place of worship - the memories are too raw.
In a bid to help worshipers return to their local mosque, hundreds of people are offering to stand outside, on guard, offering a protective layer from any outside threats.
Jatinder Saggar has invited the people of Christchurch to join him on Friday for the afternoon prayer.
He wants to link hands with others and stand watch outside Al Noor Mosque - and more than 2500 others on his Facebook page are keen to join him.
"We are together if anything happens. Our main motive is to make a wall around, a human shield you could say, around the mosque," Mr Saggar said.
"We want to show we are together, we are united and we are there for any evil that happens to any community. We are there."
Away from Christchurch the response has been the same, with Lachlan Mackay expecting big crowds for afternoon prayer at Kilbirnie's mosque, in Wellington.
"It's a powerful symbol, and it's been done across Europe and the States when we've had previous incidents like these," Mr Mackay said.
"Communities, different faiths and ethnic communities, come together and form a human chain to protect a place of worship.
"I mean, nobody should avoid their sacred place of worship for fear of being attacked or discriminated against."
Joining Mr Mackay outside the Kilbirnie mosque will be Wellington's senior Catholic clergyman, Cardinal John Dew.
"We want to say that people of all faiths should be able to unite and care for one another," Cardinal Dew said.
"That's the sort of intention in saying, we'll gather outside and keep watch while you pray."
Cardinal Dew said the Muslim faith was one built on peace and kindness.
"If we can show peace and positivity towards one another, we're helping people everywhere to see that all faiths are faiths of peace."
Carolyn Robertson is also trying to support the Muslim community, asking women to wear a headscarf on Friday in Christchurch.
"I think the main thing is that people just wear them as they go about their normal day," Ms Robertson said.
"There are some events happening on Friday where people are standing outside the mosque, and I imagine people will wear them there.
"So far, on Facebook, there's about 3000 people who've said they're interested, and there's a parallel event in Auckland with about the same number of people, so there's thousands of people around the country who've said they'll be doing it."
PM acknowledges support
The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, acknowledged the community support for Muslims and said the government would also offer its support.
"There is a desire to show support to the Muslim community as they return to mosques, particularly on Friday," Ms Ardern said.
"There is also a desire amongst New Zealanders to mark the week that has past since the terrorist attack.
"To acknowledge this, there will be a two minutes silence on Friday. We will also broadcast nationally, via TVNZ and Radio New Zealand, the call to prayer."
With people throughout the nation uniting around their local Islamic communities, those involved share a single sentiment.
The man responsible for Friday's horrific attacks failed in his goal to divide the nation.
Instead, as Jatinder Saggar said, he united the nation.
"You can see we are becoming stronger. Whatever his motive was, we are coming together to say, that is not New Zealand.
"We are coming together stronger, and we are more together."
Canterbury police have been made aware of a number of planned events in Christchurch, and are planning to have a presence at each event.