Thousands attend New Zealand vigil to remember Christchurch victims and protest racism

Tens of thousands of people attended a vigil in Christchurch to mourn the 50 Muslims killed in an attack on two mosques by a suspected white supremacist.

A huge group of mourners, estimated to number between 20,000 and 40,000 by local police, came to Hagley Park on Saturday evening to honor and remember the victims of what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called a terrorist attack.

According to Reuters, many non-Muslim women wore headscarves at the vigil to show their support for those of Islamic faith as they had at similar events last week.

On March 15, a 28-year-old Australian man who had reportedly described himself in a manifesto as a white supremacist opened fire inside two mosques, killing 50 people and injuring 50 more.

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A young boy holds a placard as he takes part in a vigil to remember the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, on March 24, 2019, in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

A young boy holds a placard as he takes part in a vigil to remember the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, on March 24, 2019, in Christchurch, New Zealand.  (Getty Images)

Mourners listened while the names of 50 worshippers were read aloud, beginning with the youngest victim, 3-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, reports Al Jazeera.

"May your spirits go to the top of Aoraki ... and look down on us and give us peace and love," one speaker reportedly said, using the traditional Maori name for Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak.

On Sunday, Ardern said a national remembrance service would be held on March 29 to honor the massacre victims.

Mustafa Boztas, a 21-year-old survivor of the shooting at Al Noor, told Al Jazeera that remembrance events show that "New Zealand cares" about its Muslim minority, which accounts for over 1 percent of the country's nearly 5 million people.

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A student from one of the nearby schools, Okirano Tilaia, reportedly told the assembled crowd: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can.”

Earlier on Saturday, according to the Qatar-based news channel, more than 1,000 people marched in a rally against racism in Auckland, carrying "migrant lives matter" and "refugees welcome here" placards.

People take part in a vigil to remember the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, on March 24, 2019, in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

People take part in a vigil to remember the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, on March 24, 2019, in Christchurch, New Zealand.  (Getty Images)

“The service will be a chance to once again show that New Zealanders are compassionate, inclusive and diverse and that we will protect those values,” Ardern said in a statement.

The prime minister's response to the mosque attack has included a swift denunciation of the incident as terrorism and a push to toughen the country's gun laws.

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