Seventh-day Adventist churches and members from around New Zealand have offered comfort to the country’s Muslim community in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings that left 50 dead and many others wounded on March 15.
The city, which has suffered the shock of recent devastating earthquakes, is now reeling from what people are calling an “unnatural disaster”—an unprecedented attack on a faith community at worship in New Zealand.
In response, church leaders have shared statements of support while church members in Christchurch have been reaching out in their local community. Yesterday (Sunday), around 100 Christchurch Adventists and pastors visited the designated sites to pay tribute and left flowers at Christchurch Hospital, where many of those injured are still being treated. Youth pastor Sarah-Jane Riley organized 50 white balloons to be left at the site. Church members sang hymns as many members of the public joined in. Prayer was also offered.
“I am thankful to Pastor Mike Sikuri, president of the South New Zealand Conference, and all his team at the Conference office, the Christchurch school, the churches and pastors for stepping up and being the church in this hour of need,” said Eddie Tupai, head of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Zealand.
Global Youth Day events that were planned for Sabbath (the day after the shootings) were cancelled as New Zealand’s security levels were moved from low to high. Church services went ahead as usual. Churches were asked to focus on prayer and support of the Muslim community, particularly leaders and members of the Al Noor and the Linwood Avenue mosques. During the crisis, Christchurch Adventist School was locked down and prayer and support have been offered to students and staff.
Tupai and Union secretary treasurer Graeme Drinkall will deliver an official letter from the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the Muslim Federation of New Zealand this afternoon (March 18), along with flowers and a donation.
Tupai and Ben Timothy, leader of the Church for North New Zealand, will then travel to Wellington to take part in a joint statement of support from national church denominational leaders.
All of Christchurch’s Adventist pastors will meet with Sikuri and the Conference team to coordinate the Church’s next steps.
In consultation with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Sikuri will attend the official response briefing to offer the Church’s and ADRA NZ’s support.
On Thursday, leaders of the Adventist Church in New Zealand plan to visit the two mosques.
Among the countless messages of support posted on Friday was a message from South Pacific Division president Glenn Townend:
“The whole of the South Pacific [region] is saddened to hear of the unnecessary loss of life in Christchurch, New Zealand, today with the shootings in two mosques. Religious freedom is valued by all Seventh-day Adventists and to have one’s life cut short while worshipping is almost unimaginable. I ask all Seventh-day Adventists to pray for the victims and their families and stand in solidarity for the freedom to worship when, how and who you choose.”
On behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide, president Ted Wilson also posted an official statement of condolence and sympathy for the “tragic event that took place at a house of worship in Christchurch”. Read the full statement.
The North American Division also put a statement out in solidarity with those in Christchurch, New Zealand saying, “Acts of hate serve to destroy our communities and drive wedges of discontent between different cultures and faith traditions. Let us all serve as beacons of light to destroy the hate that darkens our world. Let us serve our brothers and sisters in their time of need. Just as the Good Samaritan served someone of a different faith, let us “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37, KJV). Read their full statement here.
Many churches throughout Australia and across the South Pacific remembered Christchurch during their Sabbath services and held special prayers for the victims and wider community.
“Thank you for your prayers and support for our Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Tupai. “Thank you for your support for Pastor Mike, the South New Zealand Conference and the people of Christchurch. Thank you for praying for God’s grace to be upon the perpetrators of this crime. May God’s grace be with you, and your loved ones. Take good care of yourselves and be kind to each other. And may Jesus forever be Lord!”