What was supposed to be a normal Friday afternoon in Christchurch, New Zealand turned into an afternoon of horrific tragedy. As worshipers gathered at local Christchurch mosques on March 15, an armed gunman stormed into two of those mosques and began to shoot any individuals that he saw. When the entire attack finally ended, 50 people were killed, and 50 others were injured. This was the deadliest mass shooting in modern New Zealand history, and its extent shocked many leaders around the world.
The massacre began at around 1:40 pm local time at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. Several hundred people were worshiping inside this mosque when the gunman, a twenty-eight year old man, drove up to the building and rushed in armed. He started to fire randomly on the numerous people around him and spent a short period of time inside the mosque before heading outside and shooting civilians on the street. Then, after retrieving more weapons, the attacker went back into the building a second time and killed more worshipers. A few minutes later, the gunman drove away from this location to the Linwood Islamic Centre, another mosque in the Christchurch area.
At around 1:55 pm, the gunman arrived at the Linwood Islamic Centre to begin his attack there. He was initially not able to locate the main entrance to this mosque and could only shoot the people outside and the windows of the building. Despite the best efforts of individuals at this place to stop him, however, the attacker eventually found his way into the mosque and shot numerous worshipers inside. He soon returned to his car and sped away as police officers began to track down a potential suspect.
Law enforcement officials quickly located and cornered the gunman, who was captured at gunpoint and taken away. The gunman was supposedly on his way to a third mosque to continue his attack, and if he had not been stopped, more lives would have been lost. In all, the entire ordeal had lasted less than thirty minutes. 42 people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque, 7 were killed at the Linwood Islamic Centre, and one other person died at a local hospital.
Apparently, the suspect had live streamed the first part of his shooting on Facebook, which has since taken down the video. He was a white supremacist from Australia, and many pieces of evidence show that he was much in favor of various alt-right figures and groups. In a 73-page “manifesto” that he wrote, he spoke out against numerous minorities, declared the superiority of the white race, and had his entire massacre planned out. As of mid-April, the attacker has been charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 charges of attempted murder. If he is convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. That sentence, which has never been issued before in New Zealand, is the highest sentence possible in the country, as New Zealand does not have a death penalty.
As a result of this mass shooting, New Zealand’s leaders have passed stricter gun laws for their nation, and several other countries have expressed interest in tightening their own gun laws. The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, was one of the many who were horrified and heart broken at this mass shooting. Ardern called March 15 one of the country’s darkest days, and countless grieving individuals would agree with that statement.
As people try to heal from this experience and many others continue to mourn, we should remember to pray for the individuals affected by this and to keep in mind what God has to say regarding grief and hardship. Matthew 5:4 declares,“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Although this evil attack will not be forgotten in the months to come, we can find hope and peace through relying on and trusting in Christ.