A year ago Jalal Kasi, of Alexandra, learned along with the rest of the nation how a gunman had attacked two mosques in Christchurch. The locations were familiar to him – when he and his family first arrived in New Zealand from Quetta, Pakistan, they spent about six months in Christchurch. Friday prayers at Al Noor Mosque in Deans Ave were a regular part of his routine. He speaks to reporter Simon Henderson about an emotional return to the mosque in December.
Standing inside Al Noor Mosque, all Jalal Kasi could do was cry.
“I was literally crying. I was completely in shock,” he said.
Mr Kasi works for the Central Otago District Council as a projects engineer, and lives in Alexandra with his wife Maria Arbab and his son and daughter.
Mr Kasi, along with five or six fellow Muslims from Alexandra, Cromwell and Queenstown, travelled to Christchurch in December, as part of a gathering of people from across the country.
“So we thought we would go to represent our community from here.”
They spent time at both Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, during which they met friends who had been injured in the attacks.
Mr Kasi was taken on a tour of Al Noor Mosque by one of his friends from Christchurch.
“I was just in shock. It was just completely different for me. I couldn’t believe I was in the same mosque.
“We went round all the rooms and everything.”
The friend took him around the mosque describing what had happened in each room.
“[He was saying], where he came in. This is how it happened. This is where a few people saved the lives of children’.”
He thought of all the faces he knew from Friday prayers “that are not there any more”.
“I was just crying and crying and then asking questions with all the other brothers like, How is this family coping?'”
They then went to the Linwood Islamic Centre where they stayed for two nights.
He spoke to Imam Abdul Lateef who was at the Linwood mosque during the attack.
“He was telling me how he [the gunman] came and started firing, and how his own people starting falling.”
Being in the mosques where the tragedies took place was important to understand first-hand, and to offer support.
“I said if you need anything from our side we are just happy to help,” Mr Kasi said.
As time passed the community could recover but for some families coming back to a normal life might never happen “because they have lost people”.
He hoped one of the lasting effects for the nation would be more understanding and connection between different cultures.