The attack on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch has prompted an outpouring of grief and deep shock in the usually peaceful country, which prides itself on welcoming refugees fleeing violence or persecution.
Throughout the day people laid flowers at a makeshift memorial just beyond the police cordon around the Al Noor mosque, where most of the victims died, reports AFP.
Many offerings were accompanied by handwritten letters laden with sadness and disbelief, from residents of what one local driver called the “city of sorrow”.
“I am so sorry that you were not safe here. Our hearts are breaking for your loss,” read one of the notes.
“The people didn't deserve this. It’s just heartbreaking for the families; it is heartbreaking for us as it is for the families,” a woman told The Daily Star as she came to offer her tribute to the victims.
“This is as much their homes as this is ours,” she added.
When the police tape was lifted late Saturday, bystanders spontaneously joined police in moving the stack of bouquets closer to the mosque, according to AFP report.
Across New Zealand, Kiwis responded with interfaith solidarity -- crowdfunding millions of dollars, donating halal food and even offering to accompany local Muslims now scared to walk the streets.
Muslims make up just one percent of New Zealand’s population.