The bodies of victims from New Zealand’s mosques mass shooting were carried in open caskets on the shoulders of mourners into a large tent at Christchurch’s Memorial Park Cemetery on Wednesday.
The bodies, wrapped in white cloth, were laid to face Mecca, and, after janazah (funeral) prayers, were carried towards their freshly dug graves.
“Seeing the body lowered down, it was a very emotional time for me,” Gulshad Ali, who had travelled from Auckland to attend the first funeral, said.
Several mounds of dirt piled high marked the site of multiple graves which will be used for New Zealand’s worst mass shooting.
Hundreds gathered to mourn, some men wearing a taqiyah (skullcap), others shalwar kameez (long tunic and trousers), while women wore hijabs and scarfs.
The majority of victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The youngest was a boy of three, born in New Zealand to Somali refugee parents.
The first two victims buried, father and son Khaled and Hamza Mustafa, came from war-torn Syria.
“I cannot tell you how gutting it is, a family came here for safety and they should have been safe here,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, visiting the city for the second time since the massacre.
Heavily armed police stood to watch with flowers tucked in their revolver holsters and attached to their high powered rifles.
Ardern said next Friday’s call to prayers for Muslims in New Zealand will be broadcast nationally and there will be a two-minute silence on Friday.
“There is a desire to show support for the Muslim community as they return to mosques on Friday,” she said.
The bullet-ridden Al Noor mosque, where over 40 people died, is being repaired for Friday prayers.
Near the mosque, members of rival gangs did a Maori haka, a powerful indigenous ceremonial performance, and a crowd of people sung New Zealand’s national anthem as the sunset.
The Australian National Imams Council has called on Imams to dedicate this Friday’s Khutbah (sermon) to the Christchurch mosque mass shooting.
“The attack on any Muslim or any innocent person anywhere around the world is an attack on all Muslims and all people.
“This is a human and an international tragedy, not only a Muslim and NZ tragedy.
These acts of terror are there to divide us and we reject this in all its forms and ways, but rather we will stay united and strong,” the council said in a statement.