Dubai: The senseless mosque attacks in Christchurch on Friday that left 49 people dead and scores more injured has left New Zealanders living in the UAE in shock, with some calling the attack a cowardly act.
Four people were arrested on Friday following “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” in Christchurch where a gunman opened fire inside the Al Noor and Linwood Mosques, hitting every worshipper and bystander in plain sight.
The two mosques are located on either side of the Cathedral Square, which police immediately evacuated. Thousands of children were at the square holding a demonstration on climate change at the time of the attacks, one of them was Peter Kollar’s 14-year-old daughter.
“They all rushed the children into the nearest buildings. I called her as soon as I learnt of the attack. She was in complete shock. ‘How can people do this to each other?’ That’s what she kept asking. I had no answer. Some people are full of hate, unfortunately. It’s horrible,” Kollar, a hot-air balloon pilot based in Dubai, told Gulf News.
“Christchurch is one of the most peaceful cities in the world. Maybe that’s why the people targeted it.”
Andrew Parker, also a hot-air balloon pilot living in Dubai, said while it is true that terrorism can happen anywhere in the world, no one expected Christchurch to be a target.
“It was surprising because New Zealand is a pretty safe place, away from all the drama in the world. It’s what it’s known for. It was a very unfortunate and disappointing event.”
Marc Archer, a sports business professional in Dubai, said Christchurch is a city that’s been through a lot over the last decade but this incident stands out on a global scale.
“Christchurch had a major disaster eight years ago with the earthquake, which basically demolished the city. There were close to 200 deaths so it’s a city that’s been through a lot psychologically and physically. But that was a natural disaster as opposed to this one which was directly caused by humans,” Archer told Gulf News.
“It’s a very resilient place and people will stick together — Muslims, Christians, Catholics, whatever the religion, it’s that time now that they would come together.”
Kent Gray, another New Zealander who works for a Dubai-based golf magazine, but is currently visiting relatives in Auckland, said the attack is a “particularly cruel blow as many of the victims had come to Christchurch to help rebuild the ‘Garden City’ following the devastating earthquakes”.
“New Zealanders everywhere are reeling from this senseless, cowardly act. They deserved better than this which is why it pains New Zealand and the Kiwi expat community in the UAE especially so. But this is not New Zealand. This is not us,” Gray said.
“Kiwis are an immensely proud and fiercely inclusive people and shed a tear for our Muslim brothers and sisters, especially those refugees who had sought refuge from conflict and heartache elsewhere in the world in a country where they should have been safe,” he added.
Gray has no doubt, however, that New Zealand will overcome this tragedy.
“Our small, beautiful nation has a heavy heart today but watch New Zealand’s response to this tragedy. We’ll handle this with dignity and the famed kindness of New Zealanders, the willingness to embrace and adopt new Kiwis, regardless of creed or religious belief, even more revered. We know the wise leaders of the UAE stand shoulder to shoulder with us which helps in this terribly difficult time, indeed one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”