Mammoth security operation for Christchurch memorial
PRIME Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised an incredible response to the Christchurch shooting, declaring New Zealand would be the country to find the "cure" for extremism and revealing the simple words that united the nation after the horrific attack.
Speaking to the thousands who attended today's memorial in Hagley Park, Ms Ardern said the two mosque shootings - that left 50 people dead - had left New Zealanders grappling to understand why such a tragedy had hit their peaceful country.
"We have often found ourselves without words," Ms Ardern told the crowd.
"What words adequately express the pain and suffering of 50 men, women and children lost and so many injured? What words capture the anguish of our Muslim community being the target of hatred and violence? What words express the grief of a city that already known so much pain?
"I thought there were none and I was met with the simple greeting al-Salam Alaikum, peace be upon you. They were simple words."
Ms Ardern said, despite the pain and violence inflicted on the 50 people, al-Salam Alaikum was the simple greeting that united the people.
"Simple words whispered by the injured from their hospital beds," she said.
"They were words spoken by a community who, in the face of hate and violence had every right to express anger, but instead, opened their doors for all of us to grieve with them."
Ms Ardern has also promised to the world that New Zealand will be the country to find the "cure" to the "virus of extremism".
"Racism exists, but it is not welcome here. An assault on the freedom of anyone who practises their faith or religion is not welcome here. Violence and extremism in all its forms is not welcome here," Ms Ardern said, to a round of applause.
"Our challenge now is to make the very best of us a daily reality. Because we are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other, we never have been. But we can be the nation that discovers the cure."
Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel opened the national memorial for the 50 people shot and killed inside two mosques a fortnight ago.
Addressing the crowd, Mayor Dalziel thanked her community and said it was time to "look in the mirror".
"Hate has no place here, hate has no place anywhere," Mayor Dalziel told the crowd.
"I have witnessed people across the city and within the building where I work drop everything and commit every ounce of their being to supporting the response and setting up for the recovery.
"We know from our experience that placing the community at the heart of all that we do ensures that our purpose and direction will be true. That is why I'm confident that we will get through this time and emerge a kinder and more compassionate place - something we wish for the world.
"Christchurch is a city of peace. We are a city committed to honouring human rights. We need to make this real, and we can help lead the way. We will not be defined by what happened on 15 March 2019. We are defined by what followed - the unity, the love, the compassion and the kindness. They are who we are."
Ms Ardern previously said she hoped the remembrance service for victims of the Christchurch terror attacks would herald the beginning of necessary shifts in New Zealand society.
Delegates from nearly 60 countries have joined thousands of New Zealanders for the service at Hagley Park today, marking two weeks since a gunman claimed 50 lives in a mass shooting at two mosques.
The Muslim community will be at the centre of the ceremony, but many of their leaders and other visiting dignitaries haven't been identified for security reasons.
Media reports say snipers and elite staff from the Australian Federal Police will patrol the park in what is being described as the country's biggest security operation.
Mr Morrison was photographed this morning attending the memorial set up at Christchurch's botanic gardens.
Ms Ardern said her country had had time to come to terms with the horrific nature of the massacre and hoped there was a groundswell for change.
"I want to acknowledge that New Zealand is now on the beginning of a journey," she said.
"We have never been free of racism. We have never been free of violent ideology, but our overriding values are ones of fairness, compassion and diversity."
Musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, will perform at the service that is being broadcast live around New Zealand and internationally.