Australia

Alleged killer's former community comes together to mourn Christchurch victims

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Religious leaders from all faiths have come together in cities throughout Australia to lead prayer vigils for those affected by Friday's Christchurch terror attack.

Residents of Grafton came together on Monday night to pray in solidarity with those affected by Friday's Christchurch terrorist attack, which left 50 people dead, as hundreds joined a vigil in Melbourne's CBD.

The man accused of the shooting, 28-year-old Australian man Brenton Tarrant, grew up in the northern NSW town and had worked there as a gym trainer until 2011. 

Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral Dean Dr Gregory Jenks said they had gathered to "extend our compassion for the citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand and especially for the Muslim community that has suffered so directly."

A prayer vigil for victims of the Christchurch terror attacks at Grafton Cathedral.
A prayer vigil for victims of the Christchurch terror attacks at Grafton Cathedral.
Supplied

As part of the vigil, Dr Jenks - an Anglican priest - delivered a verse from the Quran and read a message from the Islamic Council of NSW. He said the local Islamic community did not feel safe enough to be publicly involved in the event. 

"But I'm sure we are determined that they will feel safe because they will know that we stand with them in this beautiful place," he said. 

Dr Jenks added that that the church was offering their "compassion and solidarity" to the Tarrant family, who remain living in Grafton and are said they were shocked by Friday's events.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne, hundreds of mourners joined a vigil at the State Library, where flowers, candles, messages of support and an All Blacks flag had been left on the stairs. 

Christ Church Cathedeal Dean Dr Gregory Jenks delivers a prayer during the vigil.
Christ Church Cathedeal Dean Dr Gregory Jenks delivers a prayer during the Grafton vigil.
Supplied


"We will not be scared into silence," Vice President of the Islamic Council of Victoria spokesperson Adel Salman said ahead of the vigil.

“It is clear is that this cowardly massacre was motivated by hatred for Muslims, by an extremist Islamophobic ideology. This attack was meant to create fear and panic and to send a message that Muslims are not welcome. This is terrorism."

Members of the New Zealand community performed the Haka before a series of interfaith leaders delivered prayers.

Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau said she was "reassured" to see such a large crowd, but wished that they "didn't have to be here at all".

A mourner lights a candle during a vigil to commemorate victims of Friday's shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch.
A mourner lights a candle during a vigil to commemorate victims of Friday's shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch.
AAP


"I wish ... that the Muslim and the wider community was not turned upside down with fear and disbelief and that the confidence of a beautiful and peaceful country had not been shaken," she said. 

"But here we are, and as we have done before, we take comfort from gathering together ... it helps us to remember that people are essentially kind and good."

New Zealand Muslim leaders have conveyed messages of love, compassion and appreciation for the support they received following the Christchurch terrorist attack.

"We know we are living in a country that we are welcome, that loves us. One of the most beautiful and most peaceful countries in the world," Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand president Mustafa Farouk said.

Tens of thousands of people have attended memorial vigils around New Zealand since Friday's attack, and a victim support website raised more than $5.3 million. Hundreds have visited the sites of the shootings.

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