A Christchurch worshipper, who was among the first to be targeted by a gunman Friday, is being hailed as a hero online for sharing “peaceful” and “courageous” words — likely his last — while confronting his attackers.
The man was overheard on a live stream video of the mass shooting saying, “Hello brother,” as the gunman approached the entrance of the New Zealand mosque.
Mourners took to social media after the horrific massacre, which left at least 49 people dead, to honor the man.
“‘Hello brother’ a word came out of a pure soul filled with a peaceful faith. ‘Hello brother’ was said to a killer with a rifle pointed to this greeting. ‘Hello brother’ he said thinking that he is talking to a human with soul and feelings. ‘Hello brother’ was shot dead,” one Twitter user commented early Friday.
“‘Hello, Brother’ were the last words of the first #NewZealand victim. As he faced a rifle, his last words were peaceful words of unconditional love. DO NOT tell me that nonviolence is weak or pacifism is cowardice. I have seen the face of God,” another echoed.
Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, though officials later clarified that at least one of the arrests wasn’t connected to the attacks. One of the suspects, identified as a 28-year-old Australian-born citizen, reportedly published a 74-page manifesto prior to the terror attack, admitting that he traveled to the country solely to train and commit the attack.
A Melbourne, Australia, resident was one of the first people to point out the “crucial detail” about the worshipper’s final act on Facebook, encouraging those to focus on the victims and heroes — like the unidentified man in the video — rather than the attackers.
“Perhaps this hero was trying to diffuse the situation? [Allah] used this man to show the world the kindness that is Islam. I don’t know but what I want, is to make certain, that is that this detail isn’t lost amongst you,” the Facebook user wrote, in part. “That this mans final act was an Islamic one, a sincere courageous and warm way to stop violence instead of fuelling it. May [Allah] grant this hero and the rest of the victims the highest level of paradise. Ameen.”
Nearly 240 people have since shared the message or posted screenshots of it on Twitter. The majority who replied to the post responded with “Ameen.”
“Today is chaos. But one incident stood out. Final words of the first Muslim man to die were ‘hello brother.’ Even at gunpoint, he showed us to be peaceful, gentle and kind. Let’s stop the violence instead of fueling it,” one person shared the post in a tweet, which has since gone viral with nearly 10,000 retweets.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern alluded at a news conference to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive for “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” saying that while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees, “they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.”
As for the suspects, Ardern said, “these are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”
Today is chaos. But one incident stood out.
Final words of the first Muslim man to die were “hello brother”.
Even at gunpoint, he showed us to be peaceful, gentle and kind.
— Numan Afifi (@NumanAfifi) March 15, 2019