Heartfelt messages and flowers left outside the Australian Islamic Centre following the massacre in Christchurch mosques (Photo: Helena Abdou)

After Christchurch, days of pain and hope

A week ago today, I went to mosque. But it was no ordinary Sunday.

For starters, Labor leader Bill Shorten made an appearance and took part in the Dhur (afternoon) prayers and shared a message of condolence.

“There are many Australians who have never set foot inside a mosque,” he said, “but today there are millions of Australians who are here with you in their hearts to express solidarity for the dreadful killings of innocent worshippers.”

Afterwards, he spoke to Hatch about the events of the previous Friday.

I have appreciated these and similar words over the past week, from Shorten and other Australian political leaders, but they didn’t resonate with me.

It’s a message I’ve heard over and over again. It did nothing to help alleviate the pain and suffering. I was still indifferent to it all.

But it was different on the ground, among ordinary people. The love, support and kindness that has been showered upon us in these tough times has been overwhelming in the best way possible and for that I thank everyone.

A week ago, the world witnessed the horrific massacre of 50 Muslims across two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

On that day I was left reeling with emotions of disbelief and heartbreak, as no one would have expected this to happen in New Zealand – a place of peace and free of violence.

I was numb and felt sick to my core. All I could think was, “What if this had happened at my local mosque?”

It would’ve been people I know and loved.

But it was people I loved; they were my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters.

Once the initial shock of the situation wore off, it was anguish, upset and tears.

Could there possibly be another attack? Would there be retaliation?

God I hoped not.

Last Saturday, one day on and the hurt had settled but coping with it wasn’t any easier.

I decided to join the hundreds of people from across all races, religions and ethnicities in Melbourne’s CBD to rally against racism and xenophobia in Australia.

I stood side-by-side in a crowd of people who shared the same sentiments, frustrations and hurt that I felt.

Prayers being made for the victims of the Christchurch massacre during the protest on Saturday.(Photo: Helena Abdou)

It was the first time in the span of 24 hours that I felt safe, even though I was in a public space.

However, the niggling feeling in the back of my mind never went away. I was hyper-alert and vigilant about my surroundings.

On Sunday, mosques all across Victoria opened their doors to the wider community.

Pulling into the mosque, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer turnout of people. Attendees were in high spirits, smiles graced every face and, if it hadn’t been for the array of flowers and notes left at the doors, you wouldn’t have known that this was a community in mourning.

It’s just a shame that it took the death of 50 innocent Muslims for us to be treated like humans.