TEMPO.CO, Christchurch - The bodies of victims from New Zealand's mosques mass shooting were carried in open caskets on the shoulders of mourners into a large tent at Christchurch's Memorial Park Cemetery on Wednesday, March 20 - the first burials of the 50 victims.
Wrapped in white cloth, the bodies were laid to face Mecca, and, after jenazah (funeral) prayers, were carried towards their freshly dug graves.
“Seeing the body lowered down, it was a very emotional time for me,” said Gulshad Ali, who had traveled from Auckland to attend the first funeral.
Several mounds of dirt piled high marked the site of multiple graves which will be used for New Zealand's worst mass shooting.
Hundreds gathered to mourn, some men wearing a taqiyah (skullcap), others shalwar kameez (long tunic and trousers), while women wore hijabs and scarfs.
The majority of victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The youngest was a boy of three, born in New Zealand to Somali refugee parents.
The first two victims buried, father and son Khaled and Hamza Mustafa, came from war-torn Syria.
"I cannot tell you how gutting it is...a family came here for safety and they should have been safe here," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, visiting the city for the second time since the massacre.
Heavily armed police stood watch with flowers tucked in their revolver holsters and attached to their high powered rifles.
Six victims were buried on Wednesday, with more expected during the week.
Ardern said this coming Friday's call to prayers for Muslims in New Zealand will be broadcast nationally and there will be a two-minute silence on Friday.
"There is a desire to show support for the Muslim community as they return to mosques on Friday," she said.
The bullet-ridden Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 people died, is being repaired for Friday prayers.
The Australian National Imams Council has called on Imams to dedicate this Friday's Khutbah (sermon) to the Christchurch mosque mass shooting.
"The attack on any Muslim or any innocent person anywhere around the world is an attack on all Muslims and all people," the council said in a statement.
"This is a human and an international tragedy, not only a Muslim and NZ tragedy. These acts of terror are there to divide us...and we reject this in all its forms and ways, but rather we will stay united and strong."