Royals lead global tributes after Christchurch terror attack

Royals, religious leaders and politicians around the world paid tribute to New Zealand and the global Muslim community on Friday, after a terrorist attack at two mosques in Christchurch left at least 49 people dead.

William and Kate, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, praised the people of Christchurch and said that “no person should ever have to fear attending a sacred place of worship.”

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives in the devastating attack in Christchurch. We have all been fortunate to spend time in Christchurch and have felt the warm, open-hearted and generous spirit that is core to its remarkable people,” they said in a joint statement.

“This senseless attack is an affront to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand, and the broader Muslim community. It is a horrifying assault on a way of life that embodies decency, community and friendship.”

Police have arrested one man and have another two suspects in custody, after the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history.

“We know that from this devastation and deep mourning, the people of New Zealand will unite to show that such evil can never defeat compassion and tolerance. We send our thoughts and prayers to everyone in New Zealand today,” the royals added.

The couples signed off their message with the Maori phrase “Kia Kaha,” meaning “stay strong.”

Harry and Meghan visited New Zealand as part of their first official overseas trip in October, while William and Kate toured the country in 2014.

Other members of the British royal family also sent condolences to New Zealand.

Queen Elizabeth II, the country’s monarch and the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, released a message saying: “I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today. Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives.

“I also pay tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who are providing support to those who have been injured. At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders,” the Queen wrote.

Prince Charles, the next in line to the throne, said he was “utterly horrified to hear of the most barbaric attacks in two mosques in Christchurch, which resulted in the cruel and tragic loss of so many people’s lives.”

“This appalling atrocity is an assault on all of us who cherish religious freedom, tolerance, compassion and community. I know that the people of New Zealand will never allow hate and division to triumph over these things they hold dear,” he added.

Leaders around the world pay respects

Heads of state from around the world also sent messages of support in the wake of the attack.

Former US President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter: “Michelle and I send our condolences to the people of New Zealand. We grieve with you and the Muslim community. All of us must stand against hatred in all its forms.”

President Donald Trump also tweeted, writing: “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added: “We must all confront Islamophobia and work to create a world in which all people — no matter their faith, where they live, or where they were born — can feel safe and secure.”

And Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he asked for flags to be flown at half-mast and described New Zealand as Australia’s “family.”

“Australians stand with all New Zealanders today during this dark time where hate and violence has stolen their peace and innocence,” Morrison said. “New Zealand, like Australia, is home to people from all faiths, cultures and backgrounds. There is absolutely no place in either of our countries for the hatred and intolerance that has bred this extremist, terrorist violence and we condemn it.”

Muslim leaders urge ‘vigilance and strength’

Muslim community groups worldwide sent messages to the families of victims and to New Zealand’s Muslim community.

They also expressed fear of follow-up attacks, and urged for greater protection at mosques worldwide.

“This is indeed a very sad day for all,” said I.H. Kauser, National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Australia, in a statement. “It is crucial that at this time we all remain united against hatred, division and bigotry.”

American group Muslim Advocates said: “We are devastated. Today is a tragedy not just for Muslims, but for all people of faith and goodwill.” The group urged Muslims in the United States to stay “vigilant and strong” as they attend mosques on Friday.

Authorities in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles joined London and some French cities in stepping up security outside mosques on Friday to guard against further attacks.

“This heinous attack is not an anomaly or a surprise … the American Muslim community has faced deadly attacks in recent years, but rarely have we witnessed such brutal carnage as today’s tragedy in New Zealand,” its statement added.

Flowers were laid outside the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, which suffered its own tragedy in 2017 when a man killed one person and injured others after deliberately driving a van into pedestrians outside the mosque.

“This is the most deadly Islamophobic terrorist attack we have experienced in recent times,” said Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain. “As the rest of us prepare to undertake our own Friday prayers today, we do so with the anxiety as to whether our mosques and communities are safe in the face of unabated Islamophobia and hostility against Muslims.”

Khan called on fellow Muslims to “resist the temptation to roll up the banners in fear,” and urged governments to step up efforts to ensure that mosques are protected.