Image Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/
Temel Atacocugu followed the path the terrorist took on 15 March 2019, from Dunedin to Christchurch.
He arrived at the mosque at 1.40pm, the same time the gunman opened fire three years ago, shooting Temel Atacocugu nine times.
Emotions ran high as he approached the waiting crowd.
Atacocugu’s hope was to reclaim the journey for peace, and his message was clear: “We shouldn’t let that terrorist destroy our peaceful life.”
Beginning on 1 March, Atacocugu faced challenges along the way, including blisters and a blood infection which hospitalised him for two nights.
He cycled part of the way, determined to make it to the mosque in time to mark the three year anniversary.
“It was quite a challenge day by day.”
Atacocugu was surprised at the amount of support he received, with different people joining him to walk, cycle, and stop for coffee along the way.
“I know now there are lots of good people out there, and they are supporting my events and my call for peace and they responded very good and really positive.”
He expected to receive abuse instead, and was initially worried about his security.
“I was thinking maybe racist abuse, verbal abuse, physical attack.”
But the experience has changed his perception.
“I feel safe after three years.”
Atacocugu has raised over $60,000 for children and youth charities throughout his journey, including the Gumboot Friday fund, Save the Children, and the Child Cancer Foundation.
“We must look after our future generation,” he said.
Atacocugu was given a hero’s welcome at Al Noor Mosque, after several hundred people cheered him along the last leg of his trip.
He knelt and kissed the ground when he reached the mosque.
“Three years ago, I was shot with the first bullet at 1.40pm. That’s why I choose to arrive here at this time.
“I got shot nine times. So, three years later, I’m here now and I want to show strength and faith and unity.
“We are one and the terrorist is nil.”
Atacocugu then went inside to join the prayers and afterwards reflected on his journey.
“These blisters are nothing compared to what I’ve suffered for the last three years…all of our hearts were broken.
“I felt that nothing can stop me from completing this journey, because this is a pilgrimage, this is a sacrifice from me, for peace and for a peaceful life.”
Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association organises blood drive
NZ Blood says it has been ‘special’ to have members of the Muslim community making donations in memory of the Christchurch mosque attack victims.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association marked three years since the attack by holding a blood drive in the Auckland suburb of Mount Albert this afternoon.
One of the organisers, Mohamed Anas Raheem, believes the terror attack was motivated by ‘misinformation’ about Islam.
He said the blood drive was about giving back to the community and setting an example.
Raheem said dozens of people were keen to donate blood at the event.
NZ Blood spokesperson Ara Marinkovich said a number of drives take place around the country, every day of the week.
But she said there had been an incredible response to this particular initiative, with dozens of donors expressing their interest.
Marinkovich said NZ Blood is always after new donors, and it was monitoring its blood stocks closely amid the Omicron outbreak.