Christchurch Muslims observe first Friday prayers since mosque massacre

Muslims in the New Zealand city of Christchurch have observed their first Friday prayer since a gunman massacred 50 people in two mosque attacks.

Thousands gathered for the Muslim call to prayer which was broadcast on national television and radio stations and attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Two minutes of silence were also observed for the victims of the mass shooting.

Ardern quoted the Prophet Muhammad during a brief address to those attending the ceremony.

“When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain,” said Ardern, wearing a black headscarf.

“New Zealand mourns with you, we are one.”

Thousands of non-Muslims attended the ceremony, forming a sea of silence behind the prayer areas while Muslims worshipped, close to a police cordon restricting access to the mosque, Al Jazeera reported.

Among them, many women of all backgrounds opted to wear headscarves in a show of solidarity with the Muslim community, which numbers no more than a few thousand locally and about 50,000 nationally.

Christchurch resident Jeanine Benson said she had chosen to wear the garment as a “show of respect” to the city’s Muslims, adding it was important to “come together as one in New Zealand”.

“I know everyone goes on about this [attack] isn’t New Zealand, but this shouldn’t happen anywhere,” Benson told Al Jazeera.

Photograph: Hassan Ghani/Al Jazeera