Jordanians unite in mourning for Atta Elayyan after Christchurch attacks

Relatives and clerics of young futsal player reject hatred behind the killings and call for forgiveness

A photograph of New Zealand futsal player Atta Elayyan, victim of the Christchurch mosque attacks, sits amongst floral tributes near Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. AFP
A photograph of New Zealand futsal player Atta Elayyan, victim of the Christchurch mosque attacks, sits amongst floral tributes near Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. AFP

Jordanians gathered in Amman on Monday to pay their respects to the family Atta Elayyan, one of the 50 people killed in the Christchurch terrorist attack, in a show of solidarity and forgiveness in the face of hatred.

The azza, or mourning hall, for Elayann was the first to be held for the four Jordanians killed by a white supremacist gunman at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers. The three-day mourning period was opened and held by Al Naber Co-operation Society, a charitable organisation founded by the one of the oldest Christian tribes in Jordan, the Al Naber family.

A dozen Christian clerics and priests representing several denominations were among the first to pay their respects at the society’s centre on Monday evening, telling mourners that Jordanians and people of all faiths share “one pain, one sadness” with the families of Elayyan and the other victims.

“These martyrs were killed in a place of prayer … but we also rejoice because they are now with God,” they said in a joint statement that rejected terrorism in all its forms and reaffirmed the shared values of the Abrahamic faiths.

Muslim clerics and tribal representatives also took turns denouncing terrorism, stressing that “terrorism has no religion, and all Abrahamic faiths – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – reject such murder.”

Elayyan, 33, was a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian descent who was born in Kuwait. He migrated with his family to New Zealand in 1992, where he became a leading IT developer and a goalkeeper for New Zealand’s national futsal team.

He was shot along with his father, Mohammed Elayyan, a respected physician and a founder of the Al Noor Mosque that was attacked, and died from his wounds the next day.

The younger Elayyan had married his Jordanian wife in a large ceremony in Amman in 2015 and returned to the kingdom frequently to visit family. Relatives remembered him as “loving, accepting, tolerant and kind”.

He had reportedly been excited about coaching the Chirstchurch Boys’ High School futsal team at a national tournament next week.

Relatives said he would have approved of the united stance of people across all faiths.

“We would be outraged if people were killed in a church, in a mosque, or in a synagogue. Today we share the same anger and the same sadness, no matter what our nationality or religion is,” Ahmed Awreikat, Elayyan’s uncle, told The National. “We are all united”

His uncle also called for forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is part of daily life in Islam and we must forgive,” said Mr Awreikat. “It is up to us Muslims, and people of all faiths, to show the forgiveness and mercy that this attacker never had.”

According to relatives, the elder Elayyan donated land for the Noor mosque and adjacent school, and held regular fund-raisers in Jordan and elsewhere to provide for the Muslim community in Christchurch.

He is currently receiving treatment in hospital for gunshot wounds to his neck and shoulder, and messaged his family on Sunday.

He is one of five Jordanians injured in the attack, all of whom are still receiving treatment, with three listed in serious condition and two in critical condition as of late Monday, according to Jordanian authorities.

Local fund-raisers have been held to help pay for the treatment of Wasseim Alsati Daraghmeh, who was shot along with his young daughter.

Three of the Jordanians killed in the attack will be buried in New Zealand, according to the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, which confirmed news reports that the wife of one of the victims had suffered a nervous breakdown and was being treated in New Zealand.

Published: March 18, 2019 10:25 PM


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