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Shooting attack victims honoured at New Zealand service

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged New Zealand to be a world leader in the fight against extremism as a legacy of the Christchurch terror attacks.

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The 50 victims of the mosque shootings on March 15 were remembered at a solemn National Remembrance Service today.

Ardern told dignitaries from nearly 60 countries and a crowd numbering in the thousands that a sense of unity had enveloped her country over the last two weeks.

However, she doesn’t want that sensation to fade, particularly the newfound compassion towards a Muslim community that had blossomed following “our darkest hours”.

“The challenge now is to make the very best of us a daily reality, because we aren’t immune to the viruses of hate, of fear. We never have been,” Ardern said.

“But we can be the nation that discovers the cure. Let that be the legacy of the 15th of March, to be the nation that we believe ourselves to be.”

She called on international leaders in the audience, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to collectively condemn the cycle of extremism that had become a global plague.

A survivor of the attacks, Farid Ahmed set the tone for the service when he said he forgave the gunman who committed the atrocity.

Ahmed lost his wife Husna Ahmed in the attack and was wounded himself but said he didn’t want hatred to be the prevailing emotion.

“People ask me, why do you forgive someone who has killed your beloved wife?” he said.

“I don’t want to have a heart like a volcano. A heart like that would hold anger, fury, rage and hatred.

“I have chosen peace, I have chosen love, and I have forgiven.”

Musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, performed his songs “Peace Train” and “Don’t be shy” after wishing peace for those killed and their affected families.

Australian Brenton Tarrant is the alleged gunman who is charged with murder and is expected to face a raft of further charges next week.

Heavily armed officers patrolled the central city park, with snipers and elite staff from Australia reportedly boosting police numbers in what has been described as the country’s biggest security operation.

Morrison was joined at the service by Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten and Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.

The trio and their wives earlier laid flowers at the adjacent Al Noor Mosque, the scene of one of the attacks.

After the service Morrison paid tribute to a “beautiful, powerful” memorial for the victims and survivors of the massacre.

He told reporters it was “deeply moving” to hear the names of the 50 people who were killed.

“Today, New Zealand has responded to hate with love. They’ve responded to violence with peace. And I think that is a very, very powerful message.” he said.

“And for Australia, while this didn’t happen on our own shores, it certainly felt like it did, because of the closeness of our two countries.”

Shorten said it was particularly galling an Australian was charged with murdering 50 innocent worshippers.

“Australians are ashamed this person was an Australian,” he told Sky News.

-AAP

 

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