New Zealand

Despair to hope: Christchurch unites in solidarity in the wake of a national tragedy


Residents of Christchurch are standing in solidarity as they unpack Friday's horrifying terror attack.

Ricardo Goncalves reports from Christchurch, New Zealand

For a city with around 400,000 residents, there's a recurring theme of solidarity which is present for the community of Christchurch following Friday's terror attack at two mosques.

A team from SBS News attended a Sunday service at the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral, along with around 200 others.

Some said they couldn't believe that such a horrific event had happened in their city, while others said they felt the attack was "just a matter of time" because they believed New Zealand was a "soft target".

Some said they were starting to feel anger at what had happened in their city, however, they appeared to be in the minority.

The feeling of defiance, support and love were overwhelming.

At the Cardboard Cathedral, which replaced the Christchurch Cathedral damaged by the 2011 earthquake, the congregation was all too happy to talk with each other, to share their thoughts and support for one another.

"We learned during the earthquakes that in times of trial it is good to reach out to each other. It is time to do this again," Lawrence Kimberley, dean of the church, told his congregation.

Kimberley called upon the worshippers to help build a "counter-narrative that leads from fear to trust, from war to peace and despair to hope" in the wake of the mass shooting by an avowed white nationalist that left 50 Muslims dead.

"We're standing in solidarity with the Muslim community. What Jesus is asking us to do is build a country where everyone knows they are at home," he told the gathering of around 100, some wearing green heart stickers as a show of unity with the city's Muslims. 

'Smell of lilies'

Signs have been plastered to power poles and walls around the city with a common message of unity.

Despite the rain, the main flower memorial at the edge of the city’s Botanic Gardens continues to grow by the hour.

Directly opposite the park, is the Al Noor Mosque, which at this time, is still cordoned off.

We spent much of yesterday afternoon and early evening at the memorial, watching and speaking with the locals.

The former Christchurch mayor, Bob Parker, said there was a 'smell of lilies' that had filled area.

He also described how there was a strong inter-faith presence.

Messages of support have been left with flowers at the memorial
Messages of support have been left with flowers at the memorial
Ricardo Goncalves

Along the line of flowers were messages of love and support, and there were chalk etchings in the pavements with a similar sentiment.

A sense of quiet, reflective calmness prevailed, as some sat in solitude on the grass by the flowers, in soft tears.

However, the image I took away from the day was watching a young father and his toddler son, sitting on the ground by the wall of flowers, as he explained to his innocent child what had happened.

I overheard him telling his son that the event was not what New Zealand was all about, rather the reaction of how the community was coming together, as he reminded his son to love and respect all New Zealanders.


Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch