CHRISTCHURCH: The Muslim call to prayer rang out across New Zealand on Friday (Mar 22) followed by two minutes of silence nationwide to mark a week since a white supremacist gunned down 50 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.
As the call was broadcast around the country, thousands of people - including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - stood silently in a park opposite the mosque where the killing began, as the country of 4.5 million came to a standstill.
"New Zealand mourns with you. We are one," she said in a short speech.
Most victims of New Zealand's worst mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The massacre by alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant, an Australian, has shocked a nation known for its tolerance.
It has prompted horrified Kiwis to respond with vigils and performances of the traditional Maori haka dance, and to form lines behind Muslims to symbolically protect them while they pray.
A muezzin in white skullcap issued the call to regular Friday prayer at 1.30pm local time with chants of "Allahu Akhbar" (God is greatest) as thousands listened in Christchurch's Hagley Park across from the Al Noor Mosque.
The country then fell silent for two minutes, with public gatherings in Auckland, Wellington and other cities.
In neighbouring Australia, people stopped in the streets and in shops to mark the moment.
Al Noor imam Gamal Fouda then took to the lectern to denounce hatred, but also to praise the sense of Kiwi togetherness that the killings have sparked.
"Today, from the same place, I look out and I see the love and compassion," he said. "New Zealand is unbreakable.
"This terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology that has torn the world apart. But, instead, we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable."
Many women in attendance wore headscarves in solidarity with New Zealand's Muslim community.
Kirsty Wilkinson joined the throng at Hagley Park along with two female friends, all in make-shift hijabs.
"I personally am doing this to knock down my walls of personal oblivion to the terror Muslim people feel every day, worrying about their safety," Wilkinson told AFP before the prayers began.
"I can take my scarf off if I feel afraid. They cannot.
"The message I want to send is that hate cannot win. We are all just people. What happened is not ok."
The gunman killed 50 men, women and children - the victims aged between three and 77 years old - and left dozens injured in an attack that he live-streamed, sparking global revulsion.
The sombre gathering comes a day after the country imposed a ban on assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics, making good on a pledge to rid the country of the kind of weapons used in last week's slaughter of 50 people.
The move triggered renewed calls from leading American politicians for a similar response in the United States, which has suffered a stream of firearm massacres but left gun reform untouched.
Police and tradesmen had been working intensively in the hope of repairing the mosque's bullet-scarred and blood-spattered interior ahead of afternoon prayers.
But authorities late Thursday announced prayers would be held in the park.
PRAYERS AND PAUSE
The national mourning and moment of silence were broadcast on television networks, radio and across multiple local media websites.
"We are so happy that this prayer will be broadcast to the entire world so that everyone can be part of it," Mustafa Farouk, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, said in a statement announcing the prayer session on Thursday.
Burials of victims resumed on Friday morning, with a hearse pulling in to the cemetery on the eastern edge of Christchurch where many have already been buried.
Ardern, who swiftly denounced the attack as terrorism, announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws on Thursday.
Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one murder following the Christchurch attack and was remanded without a plea.
Tarrant is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.
Ardern, surrounded by ministers and security officials, wore a black headscarf and a black suit. Female police at the park also wore headscarfs, with a red rose on their body suit.
In a powerful speech that lasted about 20 minutes, Imam Gamal said through its love and compassion, New Zealand is unbreakable. He thanked Ardern for her compassion.
"It has been a lesson for world leaders," the Imam said about the prime minister.
"Thank you for holding our families close and honoring us with a simple scarf," he added.
He said Islamophobia dehumanises Muslims, and called on the world to end hate speech and the politics of fear.
"Last week's event is proof and evidence to entire world that terrorism has no colour, race or religion. The rise of white supremacy is a great global threat to humanity and this must end now," he said.
MUSLIMS WILL BE "SAFE" AFTER MOSQUE ATTACKS
Muslims living in New Zealand would be "safe and secure" despite the deadly attacks, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters told an emergency meeting with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul.
"Ensuring Muslim communities in New Zealand feel safe and secure is a particular focus," he added.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has angered New Zealand by repeatedly showing a video made by the mosque gunman.