In a show of unlikely grace, some Christian and Muslim leaders alike are praying not only for the faith community, but also for the Australian gunman who carried out Friday’s horrific terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Those leaders include Farid Ahmed, a member of the city’s Muslim community whose own wife Husna Ahmed was one of 50 shot dead in the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on Friday. Originally from Bangladesh, Farid said that he doesn’t hate the killer, and is praying for him.
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“As a person I love him,” he told news agencies including the BBC. “I can’t support what he did, but I think somewhere along in his life, maybe he was hurt. But he could not translate that hurt [in] a positive manner, that’s why he was doing wrong.
“They are not going to win. We will be harmonious.”
~ Farid Ahmed
“I don’t have any grudge against him, I’ve forgiven him, and I’m praying for him. That God will guide him and then one day he will be a ‘saviour’.”
He added that the act of hatred would not incite more violence.
“People who carry out terrorist attacks, they want people to be afraid,” he said. “They want to incite [violence] between one group with another. Maybe they were hoping that if they target some Muslims, then maybe Muslims will retaliate. But we Muslim leaders are saying ‘that’s not going to happen – we will not allow you to feel afraid or to hate other people because of your horrendous attack.”
NBC news also reported that Ahmed was determined not to let a terrorist destroy New Zealand’s unity as a nation.
“I believe that some people, purposely, they are trying to break down the harmony we have in New Zealand with the diversity,” he said. “But they are not going to win. They are not going to win. We will be harmonious.”
The Prayers of Christian Church Leaders
The Anglican Bishop Peter Carrell spoke on behalf of church leaders across Christchurch city and Canterbury province saying their prayers went out for all affected – even including the shooter, that he might be transformed.
“No religious organisation or group deserves to be the target of someone’s hate – regardless of beliefs,” he said. “We stand for an Aotearoa New Zealand which will never condone such violence. We are praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters, for those injured and those who have lost loved ones, for the police, ambulance and other emergency services, and for all in the city of Christchurch who are feeling distress and fear due to this event.
“For any person to do this, they must have such hatred in their hearts, such misalignment of the value of human life, that they too, need our prayer.”
~ Rev Peter Carrell
“We pray too for the shooter and their supporters, because for any person to do this, they must have such hatred in their hearts, such misalignment of the value of human life, that they too, need our prayer.
“We thank many others from around our nation and the world who are praying for peace in Christchurch.”
The Christchurch Inner-City Christian Ministers’ Association also issued a letter of support to the city’s Muslim community on behalf of their congregations.
“In the face of today’s horrific shooting [we] extend our love to the wider Muslim Community of Christchurch and assure them of our friendship and support at this time of great loss,” they wrote.
“Be assured of our continuing prayers as our joint city community and people struggle to understand what has happened in the wake of this unconscionable act.
“As members of two faith traditions, born out of a shared Abrahamic inheritance, we stand in solidarity with you. Looking, and crying, to God, the source of all.“
The letter signed off with the familiar Islamic greeting, “peace be with you”.
Church Services Mourn, Pray, Even Sing the National Anthem
On Sunday morning churches around the nation gathered to worship, pray and seek God for peace on their nation, including Cornerstone Church in Christchurch, which held “services of lament and hope”.
Auckland’s Life Church began its Sunday morning service with a rendition of the country’s national anthem, God of Nations.
In an Instagram post, the church’s pastor, Paul De Jong, said it was “a significant, moving day in church”.
“Across the live-link at our three Auckland Campuses we sung our national anthem, God of Nations, with the line that is so apt at this time, “God defend our free land”,” he wrote. “After a minute’s silence, Maree and I prayed for the families affected, the injured, medical teams and care-givers as well as for wisdom for our Prime Minister @jacindaardern and other government officials at this time. We declare that God is over Aotearoa and this evil will not prevail – God will prevail.”
He quoted Psalm 91:1-2 from the Bible: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”
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A significant, moving day today in church as we commenced our services by praying for the tragedy in Christchurch. Across the live-link at our three Auckland Campuses we sung our national anthem, God of Nations, with the line that is so apt at this time, “God defend our free land.” After a minute’s silence, Maree and I prayed for the families affected, the injured, medical teams and care-givers as well as for wisdom for our Prime Minister @jacindaardern and other government officials at this time. We declare that God is over Aotearoa and this evil will not prevail – God will prevail. Psalm 91: 1 & 2 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”