I had intended to take part in a vigil outside the Feilding mosque today, but all its attenders participated in a regional call to prayer in Palmerston North. Feeling a call to participate in the vigil there, I left Feilding, and drove to Palmy (as we affectionately call the city) arriving shortly before 1 PM. I had to park about 800 m (half a mile) from the mosque due to the number of people attending. The wide street out side the mosque was closed to vehicular traffic and a crowd of several thousand congregated in the street and within the grounds of the Islamic Centre.
Call to prayer started at 1:30, and then at 2:32 (the time the attack started last week) there was 2 minutes of silence. I’m accustomed to up to an hour of silence at Quaker meeting, and for me the 2 minutes of silence was way to short. However it had a profound effect of many on the crowd, and at the end of the silence a great many there broke down in tears.
The imam’s sermon was core values of Islam and why it was necessary not to let anger or hate take over. He spoke of the huge support offered by the community and how he and his fellow worshipers were proud to be called Kiwis. Again and again he reiterated that Aroha (the Māori word for love) will defeat hate. After the imam had spoken, representative of other faiths and then dignitaries were invited to speak. The imam broke protocol to allow female speakers within the mosque.
Following the service, 50 butterflies (representing the 50 lives lost) were released. Then a group of predominantly Māori performed a haka. Although it’s late summer, standing on the road on full sun was exhausting. But just as I thought I’d have to seek some shade, the clouds would hide the sun and the breeze would pick up for just a moment, enough to take the edge off the heat.
I took my new phone with me, but that turned out to be a mistake. The camera on this Huawei is a very different beast from the one on my old Samsung. This new one has far too many modes, and the icon representing the various features of the phone are not as intuitive as the old one. I’ve also discovered that in very bright daylight the screen is not bright enough to see properly. Consequently most of my photography efforts were in vain.
One of the effects of the shooting has been that many Muslim women have been afraid to leave their homes, because unlike the men who typically dress like other Kiwi males, most Muslim women wear the hijab or a head scarf making them rather conspicuous. Kiwi women’s groups have solved this problem by offering to accompany Muslim women whenever they feel the need for support. To help the women to feel less conspicuous, a great many non-Muslim women have chosen to wear a headscarf this week as a symbol of solidarity with their Muslim sisters. At today’s vigil, I estimate 70% of the non-Muslim women wore a head covering of some sort, mostly scarves.