President Nelson announces $100,000 donation to rebuild mosques damaged in New Zealand attacks

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — After announcing a $100,000 donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help rebuild and renovate mosques damaged two months ago in a deadly attack, President Russell M. Nelson stood arm-in-arm with Dr. Mustafa Farouk, the president of the Islamic Associations of New Zealand.

The death and injury of innocent worshippers, gunned down March 15 at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, “is incomprehensible,” President Nelson said.

“So what can we do? We can pray, we can love, we can minister, we can give a donation. They appreciate it all. They appreciate the fact that we care.”

Visiting with leaders of New Zealand’s Muslim community in the Relief Society room of the Auckland New Zealand Redoubt Stake Center, President Nelson’s sentiment was clear.

“We are brothers. We are brothers,” he said.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets with imams and a victim in Auckland, New Zealand, on May 21, 2019, from two mosques that were recently attacked. Two imams represented the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, where innocent worshippers were gunned down March 15 in Christchurch.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets with imams and a victim in Auckland, New Zealand, on May 21, 2019, from two mosques that were recently attacked. Two imams represented the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, where innocent worshippers were gunned down March 15 in Christchurch. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News

Dr. Farouk said the Muslim community has felt unprecedented support since the shootings, which resulted in 51 deaths and as many injured. “Right from the prime minister to the person on the street, they all came with one voice: ‘This is not New Zealand.’”

President Nelson met with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on May 20 and praised her for being a "courageous" leader. Read more about it here.

Dr. Farouk said linking arms with President Nelson was a symbol of unity.

“We are all united,” he said. “We are all one.”

During the small reception, President Nelson announced a donation of $50,000 to each impacted mosque “to assist repair and renovation of your two facilities.”

“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the world over were heartbroken when we heard of the deadly attacks on innocent worshippers in the Al Noor and Linwood mosques of Christchurch on March 15,” he said, reading from a letter presented to Dr. Farouk.

“Our prayers, love and support are with you and all others affected by these senseless tragedies.”

President Nelson also pledged the service of local Latter-day Saints.

“Looking ahead, should you require volunteers to assist in the repair and renovation work that will be funded by these donations, we would be honored to lend a helping hand.”

Dr. Farouk thanked President Nelson for his visit to New Zealand and for his prayers. “It is very touching to us that you are here,” he said.

Imam Alabi Lateef Zirullah of the Linwood Mosque said the shooting — and images of gunshots, blood, broken windows and screaming women — is “something that I don’t really want to go back to.”

But “the love shown to us right away from the New Zealand government and New Zealand as a whole and the whole world, irrespective of faith and belief, took 50 percent of the horror, the trauma, out of us.”

Imam Zirullah said continued support has “given us strength.”

Dr. Mustafa Farouk meets with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Auckland, New Zealand, on May 21, 2019. Two imams represented the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, where innocent worshippers were gunned down March 15 in Christchurch.
Dr. Mustafa Farouk meets with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Auckland, New Zealand, on May 21, 2019. Two imams represented the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, where innocent worshippers were gunned down March 15 in Christchurch. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News

The fact that President Nelson came from the United States at his age “to express his solidarity with us” means much, he said.

Shagaf Khan, president of the Muslim Association of Canteberry, which manages the Al Noor Mosque, was at work when he received a call informing him that there was a shooting in the mosque.

“Immediately I identified, ‘This is a hate crime that has happened.’”

“The first question in my mind was how am I going to handle this. …. How are we going to rebuild our community? How are we going to start the mosque again?”

Imam Kahn said he has been touched by the outpouring of support from the nation and world.

Of the Church’s donation, he said: “When someone comes from oversees and shows his love for us, it is really heart touching. We can feel their sacrifice.”