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March 15, 2019 at 10:24 am PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
LGBTI groups condemn terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques

LGBTI advocacy groups have condemned the terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, that have left at 49 people dead. (Photo by Tākuta via Flickr)

LGBTI advocacy groups around the world have condemned Friday’s terrorist attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that have left at least 49 people dead.

Express, an LGBTI newspaper in Auckland, reported organizers of the Wellington International Pride Parade that was scheduled to take place in Wellington, the country’s capital, on Saturday have postponed event.

“We, like all New Zealanders, are hurting today,” said parade organizers in a Facebook post, according to Express. “We have considered long and hard about asking Wellingtonians to walk alongside us in solidarity with our friends and whanau in Christchurch; we don’t want terrorists to win, we don’t want terrorists to dictate how we live our lives.”

The 2019 ILGA World Conference is scheduled to begin in Wellington on Saturday. The organization in a tweet said it is “shocked and saddened by the news of what happened in Christchurch.”

“All our solidarity goes to the Muslim community in New Zealand and beyond,” said ILGA.

Media reports indicate a 28-year-old gunman who was born in Australia killed 41 people at a mosque near downtown Christchurch when he opened fire at around 1:40 p.m. local time. Authorities say the gunman — who reportedly live-streamed the attack on Facebook — killed seven people at a second Christchurch mosque before police arrested him.

Reports indicate 48 people were also injured in what has been described as New Zealand’s worst mass shooting.

The gunman has been charged with murder and is expected to be arraigned in a Christchurch court on Saturday. Media reports indicate police have detained two people in connection with the massacre.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday during a press conference.

Ardern said those who planned and carried out the attack have “extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.” She added they chose New Zealand “for the very fact that we are none of those things.”

“We represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it,” said Ardern. “Those values I can assure you will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

President Trump and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa Scott Brown are among those who have also condemned the attack.

“We’re heartbroken over the events in Christchurch today,” said Brown in a tweet. “We stand with our Kiwi friends and neighbors and our prayers are with you.”

Friday’s terrorist attack took place against the backdrop of continued anti-Muslim rhetoric from Trump and his supporters, including Fox News host Jeanine Pirro who sparked outrage last week with her suggestion that U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is un-American because the Somali-born congresswoman wears a hijab. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among the other world leaders who have sparked criticism in recent weeks with comments that their critics contend target immigrants and other marginalized groups.

“We are heartbroken and outraged by this terrorist attack on Muslims in places of worship, and we mourn for the victims and their families,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Friday.

“Hate violence against Muslims is a global epidemic, fueled by the toxic combination of Islamaphobia and xenophobia that has led to tragedies here in the United States and in nations around the world,” he added. “While in these moments, only the attackers are directly responsible, there is broader climate of hate that encourages and inspires deadly extremism such as this. We call on politicians who traffic in dangerous anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate speech, including Donald Trump, to immediately stop the fear-mongering and divisive politics that can have deadly consequences. Now is a time to be united against hate — not engage in the ‘both sides’ rhetoric that only serves to legitimize extremists.”

Friday’s massacre took place less than three years after a gunman killed 49 people inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The onePULSE Foundation, which Pulse owner Barbara Poma launched after the 2016 massacre, on its Facebook page wrote “the fear and pain experienced in New Zealand is something we in Orlando know all too well.”

“These hateful acts of terror strike us in the places where we feel most safe and accepted, and the shock of that hate is felt around the world,” said the foundation in its Facebook post. “We want the community of Christchurch to know that Orlando is holding them up today. We will stand with you during this darkest time. There are no comforting words for those who lost their loved ones, but we hope the strength we send helps you. We stand with you in your grief.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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