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‘Human chain of protection’ safeguards Friday prayers in Kilbirnie

human-chain-kilbirnie
Radio NZ photo

Report from RNZ
Thousands of people arrived at the Kilbirnie Mosque today to show their solidarity with the Muslim community as they attended their Friday afternoon prayers.

A human chain formed outside the mosque.

Among the crowd were emergency service staff, Police Commissioner Mike Bush, Mayor Justin Lester, MPs Grant Robertson, James Shaw and Paul Eagle, and leaders from other religious communities.

kilbirnie-mosque-2
Outside the Kilbirnie mosque. RNZ photo

Wellington and all of New Zealand observed the Muslim call to prayer and two minutes of silence, one week after the attacks that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch.

Joint Press Release – March 21
Muslims worshipping at the Kilbirnie Masjid in Wellington this Friday will be shielded by a human chain surrounding the mosque complex during their Jumu’ah prayers.

It was during Jumu’ah prayers last Friday that worshippers were attacked at the Masjid Al Noor and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch.

Co-founder of the Wellington Interfaith Council Dr. Pushpa Wood says “the root of violence I am told is hatred, disregard for others, intolerance towards other viewpoints and an underlying desire to hurt others. Is there a way that we can find means and ways to get rid of hatred, fear, disregard of human life from all our lives? and in its place fill our hearts with love, respect, peace and regard for all lives. Let’s find practical ways to achieve this”.

The Anglican Assistant Bishop of Wellington Eleanor Sanderson says “supporting a life of prayer is central to all 3 Abrahamic faiths. This is a tangible way that our people can come together to protect what should always be protected”.

Co-organiser of the human chain event Daniel Kleinsman says it’s not a new idea. “It’s been organised overseas when Muslim and Jewish communities have been attacked. It’s a powerful symbol of support and love, but it’s also practical. It seeks to create a physical barrier of protection for those persecuted at this time.”

Wellingtonians who want to take part are asked to gather outside the Masjid complex on Queens Drive, Kilbirnie at 1.15pm. They will be there as Muslim worshippers arrive and will stay until the last has left.

“We’re encouraging people to come together in solidarity and peace. We want to reassure our Muslim brothers and sisters that we are here for them and with them; we want to create the bonds and relationships that prevent such an act of terrorism from occurring ever again,” says Daniel Kleinsman.

The organisers are encouraging those who may be coming from further away to use public transport where feasible, because of the traffic problems that a high number of cars may cause.

Co-Organiser Lachlan Mackay is calling for the Kilbirnie human chain of protection to be replicated across New Zealand. “It will help to send a very clear message to those who support hate crimes – that they will never win in dividing New Zealanders nor will they win in spreading hatred here – we won’t let them”.

Mr Mackay says he has received messages of support, and condolences, from across the world, including from Nobel Peace nominee Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish based in Toronto, the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Dr Arun Gandhi; and Iman Abdul Malik Mujahid of Sound Vision also in Chicago.

“All these messages are heartening, and we have passed them on to our Muslim brothers and sisters”.

Press Release – International Muslim Association of New Zealand
Friday Prayers at Kilbirnie Mosque tomorrow will be especially poignant, being exactly one week since the terrorist massacre in the Christchurch mosques. The mosque is expecting a huge congregation of Muslims, but also many people of other faiths and of no particular faith. Several groups from other faiths will be conducting their own interfaith prayers and vigils alongside the mosque.

In a symbolic act of solidarity, a human chain of volunteers is being created to protect the Muslims praying inside the mosque. They will stand in place from 1.15pm until the last Muslim has left the mosque. Parts of surrounding streets will be closed so anyone planning to attend should park some way off or use public transport.

Mosque president Tahir Nawaz has asked people to leave the mosque after prayers in a way that does not create congestion on the surrounding streets.