In the wake of the deadly shootings in two Mosques in Christchurch, athletes from Special Olympics New Zealand and Special Olympics UAE, along with leaders of Special Olympics, gathered on March 16, 2019 at the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi in a show of compassion and unity.
More than 100 mourners processed quietly into the Mosque, then formed a circle and held hands in its vast courtyard before sunset.
Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver made remarks before a long moment of silence.
“As we try to overcome our own brokenness from the chaos in the world we must remember that hate cannot defeat hate, only love can do that. I am so comforted being here among the forces of healing, the forces of understanding, the forces of compassion and the forces of tolerance. The world needs to know these forces are more powerful than anything,” Mr Shriver said.
New Zealand Delegation
Special Olympics New Zealand has a delegation of 64 athletes and coaches in the UAE for the Special Olympics World Games. After they learned of the deadly attacks, the grieving New Zealand delegation sought to comfort one another and to show solidarity with Muslims worldwide.
Special Olympics New Zealand basketball athlete Carlton Vivian, who is from Christchurch, said, “These people didn’t deserve this, no body deserves this.”
Symbol of Islam
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a symbol of Islam and embodies the Islamic message of peace, tolerance and diversity. Among those to take a tour of the Mosque already this year are Pope Francis, the Head of the Catholic Church, and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmed el-Tayeb. During their visit to the UAE, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam signed the historic Human Fraternity document that calls for peace between nations, religions and races.
This year is the Year of Tolerance throughout the UAE and is the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics, a movement that prides itself on erasing the lines of division and fear of difference through the power of sport.
Photo Caption: New Zealand delegation mourning at the Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi