New Zealand marks the grim first anniversary Sunday of the Christchurch mosque massacre — but while coronavirus concerns led to the canceling of an official remembrance service, a crowd still gathered to sing and dance in honor of the 51 dead.
The canceled event, slated for Sunday, had been expected to draw large crowds to honor those killed by a far-right white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 29, at the Masjid An-Nur mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center last March 15.
“We’re very saddened to cancel, but in remembering such a terrible tragedy, we shouldn’t create the risk of further harm being done,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement on Saturday, The Guardian reported.
Muslim mourners were still seen sorrowfully greeting each other Saturday at the Masjid An-Nur mosque, with young girls from the Marlborough Girls College in Blenheim holding hands and singing at its entrance.
The Tu Tangata Iwi Tapu Motorcycle Club also lent its support, taking selfies with survivors of the tragedy.
The Australian gunman is now facing terrorism charges, as well as 51 charges of murder and 40 for attempted murder. He is expected to go on trial in June.
The small country has seen an influx of private jets arriving as billionaires worldwide seek a coronavirus safe haven, New Zealand Herald reported. The country has also issued some of the toughest border restrictions, forcing everyone coming in to isolate themselves for 14 days.
New Zealand reportedly has six coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University which has been tracking the pandemic.
Ardern attended a joint prayer with members of the two mosques on Friday.
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