Christchurch readies for dark anniversary

Ben McKay
Australian Associated Press

Christchurch is bracing for the full gamut of human emotion this weekend, as New Zealand pauses to reflect a year since its worst mass shooting.

On March 15 last year, 51 worshippers were killed in an attack on two Cantabrian mosques.

For many, the grief is still unbearably raw.

For others, there is great resolve to build stronger bonds.

Christchurch's most senior government member, Energy Minister Megan Woods, says her community is responding to the anniversary in different ways.

"There are people that are taking stock of their life as they often do on first anniversaries," she told AAP.

"There will be very personal grief for the loss of fathers and brothers and sisters and family members.

"At a city-wide level, there will be a renewed collective response that this is not what we are as a city. That this is not tolerated.

"There will also be a renewed outpouring of love for a community that was hugely impacted."

In New Zealand, the attack is most often referred to as "March 15" to avoid a smear of Christchurch.

Mulki Abdiwahab, a 19-year-old who survived the shooting at Al-Noor along with her parents, said the events of March 15 were still inescapable in her mind.

"Me, my mother and my father survived a mass shooting. It's been a year now. We're still surviving," she said.

"Every day since March 15 the same thing.

"It's not going to be any different. Every day since is how I am right now. It's similar for a lot of people.

"The struggle is every day to get back into reality, into everyday life ... having to balance that burden of trauma.

"I don't think I could ever get back to knowing who Mulki on the 14th of March was because of the effects of that day."

Some members of the Islamic community choose not to commemorate the milestone as they believe it to run contrary to the teaching of Islam.

For that reason, there will be no services in Dunedin.

There will be an array of events in other cities, particularly Christchurch.

Hundreds of worshippers from both the Al-Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre - the two targeted mosques - will join together for their Friday prayers.

On Sunday, prime minister Jacinda Ardern will be one of several to address thousands expected for a national remembrance service.

There are other events too; a re-displaying of tributes made in the aftermath of the attack, a concert, a photographic exhibition, a picnic.

Abdul Aziz, who was at the Linwood Islamic Centre during the attack, said he understood why many would not want to commemorate the day.

"Some people they don't want it to go ahead. People have different minds," he told AAP.

"This is mostly for the whole country, not just for the Muslim people, to show their love and respect and unity with us.

"I accept that with an open heart. Since it's happened there has been a lot of love and peace going on."

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