Police guard Ponsonby mosque as ecumenical mourners mark tragedy

Ponsonby mosque child
A young girl with a teddy reading messages of support for the atrocity survivors outside Ponsonby mosque in Auckland on 17 March 2019, two days after the Christchurch massacre. Image: David Robie/PMC

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Hundreds of Auckland mourners shared prayers and tears today for those who lost their lives in New Zealand’s double mosque attack on Friday in an ecumenical service in Ponsonby’s Sacred Heart Church.

The mourners included Asians, Māori, Pakeha and Pacific Islanders as well as many people of Muslim faith.

Then the mourners crossed Vermont Street to the Ponsonby Mosque and shared their grief in a colourful, floral but subdued and respectful ceremony.

Catholic bishop of Auckland Patrick Dunn led the way across the street carrying a wreath of flowers.

Many speakers from several religions vowed that the massacre on Friday that has left 50 people dead, including a young child, would not divide the country. On the contrary, it would strengthen a united resolve.

Meanwhile, RNZ reports that Police Commissioner Mike Bush said today a heavy police presence around the country tomorrow will ensure New Zealanders’ safety after the terror attacks.

At a press conference in Wellington, Bush reiterated Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s statement that victims’ bodies would begin to be returned to their families this evening, a process that would hopefully be completed by Wednesday.

“We have in excess of 200 police staff [in Christchurch] doing a number of roles.

“We have medical forensic staff, highly trained police staff, all working to enable the chief coroner to have this process commenced and completed as soon as possible out of respect for their loved ones.”

He said he was working with top police on deployment, “to deploy them in a way that allows people to feel safe to go about their business”.

Auckland Catholic Bishop Patrick Dunn carrying a wreath from Sacred Heart Church across the street to Ponsonby mosque today. Image: David Robie/PMC
Ponsonby mosque mourners today. Image: David Robie/PMC
An armed policeman guarding the outside of Ponsonby mosque today. Scenes like this are rare in New Zealand where police do not normally carry firearms. Image: David Robie/PMC
Flowers at the Ponsonby Al-Masjid Al Jamie, New Zealand’s oldest mosque, in Auckland today. Image: David Robie/PMC
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SOURCEPacific Media Centre
The Pacific Media Centre at Auckland University of Technology also collaborates with other Asia-Pacific media centres engaged in research and cultural production and develops cultural and research publications, building on the success of the peer-reviewed publication Pacific Journalism Review, media freedom project Pacific Media Watch and current affairs website Asia Pacific Report.