CHRISTCHURCH – AA: One survivor of the attack on a mosque in New Zealand is on a journey for peace, walking the literal path of the killer, for closure.
Temel Atacocugu, a Turkish man living in New Zealand for the past 13 years, was shot nine times at the Al Noor Mosque. He’s had so many surgeries he has lost count, with more to come, and is still often in pain due to his wounds.
On March 15, 2019, the terrorist, Brenton Tarrant, who carried out the attacks, left his Dunedin home and drove to Christchurch to attack worshipers during Friday prayers.
The Australian national pleaded guilty to the murder of 51 worshippers, attempted murder of 40 others and one charge of terrorism. He was given the strongest penalty in New Zealand’s modern history – life in prison, with no chance of parole.
Tarrant is being held in a high-security unit at the Auckland Prison.
Atacocugu, 47, has now been retracing his steps, walking the path the killer took – to reclaim peace.
He left Dunedin a few weeks ago on a journey more than 350 kilometers to Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre.
He will finish his journey at the Al Noor Mosque at the exact time the killer walked in the door and opened fire.
He has been raising money for charity along the way and has almost reached $50,000 NZD ($34,000).
Many New Zealanders believe the horror of that day has helped reduce Islamophobia, but say there are still pockets of anger and extremism in society. Atacocugu agrees.
But the pain from that day three years ago is deep and will take some time to heal. “We are heartbroken, but we are not broken.”