'Words cannot convey our distress': New Zealand church leaders respond to mosque killings

Church leaders in Christchurch have responded with horror to the terrorist attack that saw at least 49 Muslims murdered yesterday and expressed their support for the Muslim community.

The Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Rt Rev Peter Carrell, issued a statement saying: 'Church leaders are absolutely devastated at the unprecedented situation in Christchurch this afternoon and our hearts and prayers go to all involved. No religious organisation or group deserves to be the target of someone's hate – regardless of beliefs.

An injured person is loaded into an ambulance after the shooting at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.Reuters

'We stand for an Aotearoa New Zealand which will never condone such violence. So across the churches of Christchurch and Canterbury, we are praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters, for those injured and those who have lost loved ones, for the police, ambulance and other emergency services, and for all in the city of Christchurch who are feeling distress and fear due to this event. We are upholding you all in our prayers.

'We pray too for the shooter and their supporters, because for any person to do this, they must have such hatred in their hearts, such misalignment of the value of human life, that they too, need our prayer. We thank many others from around our nation and the world who are praying for peace in Christchurch.'

The Catholic Bishop of Christchurch, Rt Rev Paul Martin, said: 'We are horrified at the violence that has been inflicted on people of our city this afternoon. Words cannot convey our distress. Our prayers are with those who are suffering.'

He pointed Catholics to the prayer of St Francis of Assisi which begins, 'Lord, make us instruments of your peace: where there is hatred, let us sow love, where there is injury, pardon.'

An ecumenical grouping of churches comprising Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Salvation Army, Catholic and independent churches, the Christchurch Inner-City Christian Ministers' Association, wrote to the city's Muslim community saying: 'In the face of today's horrific shooting, the combined inner-city Christian ministers and their congregations wish to extend our love to the wider Muslim Community of Christchurch and assure them of our friendship and support at this time of great loss.

'Be assured of our continuing prayers as our joint city community and people struggle to understand what has happened in the wake of this unconscionable act.

'As members of two faith traditions, born out of a shared Abrahamic inheritance, we stand in solidarity with you, looking, and crying, to God, the source of all.'