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‘God Is Testing Us’: New Zealand Families Look for Answers and Comfort

Category: Politics,War & Conflict

“It’s illegal to hide the names from us!” Mr. Darwish shouted at a police official, who was fielding questions while standing on a chair at the back of the room, where few could hear him. “You have to provide them!”

This was not where they belonged, many of the survivors said.

Bloodshed, terrorism and fear were what some of them had left behind, fleeing countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia. Others were born here, used to relative quiet and peace. But in the land of emerald green rugby pitches, hatred found them all anyway.

[Go here to read how the attack unfolded on Friday.]

They responded with the full range of human emotion. Walking between the mosques and the hospital revealed countless examples of tears and outrage. There was debilitating sadness. There was confusion, but also the kind of love you see in hugs that hold tight and bring tears without concern for who is looking.

“This is a test,” said Zia Aiyaz, 32, an engineer originally from Afghanistan who flew to Christchurch from Hamilton, New Zealand, to help the families of those who were killed or wounded. “God is testing us — testing the families and us, and we’re here to help.”

Islam first arrived in Christchurch in 1854, with a family from India, local history says. Its roots strengthened in the 1970s with the arrival of Afghan immigrants, and again in the ’90s with new arrivals from other countries.

The Muslim community is neither highly visible nor invisible here in Christchurch, a pleasant city of 350,000 near the South Island’s Pacific Coast. Mostly Sunni, they are part of a small but growing group of around 46,000 Muslims overall in a country of 4.6 million. In Christchurch, their ranks include students at local universities, taxi drivers, professionals, nurses — and imams like Lateef Alabi.

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