New Zealand falls silent as mosque attack victims are remembered

Sean Morrison

New Zealand fell silent and the Islamic call to prayer was broadcast to remember those killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined thousands of mourners near the Al-Noor mosque, one of the two places of worship targeted in last Friday's shootings.

"New Zealand mourns with you. We are one," she said in a short speech which was followed by two minutes of silence.

A mass burial will take place for many of the victims later on Friday.

People look at tributes at the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch (AFP/Getty Images)

Most victims of the country’s worst mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

"We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken. We are alive, we are togther, we are determined to not let anyone divide us," Imam Fouda told the gathered crowd, many wearing headscarves in support.

"To the families of the victims, your loved ones did not die in vain. Their blood has watered the seeds of hope," he said in prayers broadcast nationally.

People attend the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch (REUTERS)

Ms 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.

The #headscarfforharmony movement, launched by an Auckland doctor, encouraged people to wear headscarves on Friday to show their support for the Muslim community.

Images of a grieving Ms Ardern wearing a black headscarf as she visited families of the victims a day after the attacks were broadcast around the world.

Jacinda Ardern attends the Friday prayers at Hagley Park (REUTERS)

Muslims account for just over one percent of New Zealand's population, most of whom were born overseas.

"We're not moving on. This grieving is going to take a long time," said 52-year-old Christchurch resident Bell Sibly, who wore a headscarf to show her support. "But what he's done, he was hoping to divide us, and instead, he's brought us all together in one big hug."

Residents of Christchurch are still recovering from a devastating earthquake that hit in 2011, killing 185 and injured thousands.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand since the attacks and police said there would be a "heightened presence" on Friday to reassure those attending weekly prayers.

Officers dotted around Christchurch wore green ribbons pinned to their chests as a sign of peace and solidarity.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one murder following the 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.