'Don't cry': Celebration trumps pain at Christchurch funeral


Christchurch (New Zealand) (AFP)

Heads bowed, their hair covered by black headscarves, female family members of Mohemmed Daoud Nabi gently wept as they approached his body until a fellow mourner called out "Don't cry."

It was a refrain heard repeatedly throughout the short, emotional funeral for 71-year-old Nabi, one of 50 people slain by a white supremacist gunman in Christchurch last Friday during a live broadcast rampage that caused global revulsion.

Those bidding farewell to the septuagenarian were determined to send out a message. This was a day of celebration, not of loss.

Nabi was the man who unknowingly opened the door to his killer at the city's Al Noor mosque, reportedly welcoming him with the words "Hello Brother".

And that was the memory those laying him to rest wanted to broadcast on Thursday.

Huddled together under a marquee on a grey and blustery day, Nabi's sons recited prayers in Dari and Arabic as the former head of their family lay in a wooden casket at their feet.

"Those who live abroad and die or killed there will go to paradise," one of the sons said, a reference to Nabi's journey two decades before from war-torn Afghanistan to his adopted homeland New Zealand.

"He was killed in a mosque in a house of God. He was a true servant. He was a pious person," he added.

After prayers mourners carefully lifted the casket aloft and carried Nabi towards the newly dug grave at Memorial Park Cemetery, one of dozens for victims of the massacre.

Those gathered were a reflection of the breadth of the community affected by Friday's massacre, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, bikers, refugees, young families -- all touched by Nabi and the warmth he showed.

Some held placards advocating peace and tolerance. Some sported those now two ubiquitous words: "Hello Brother".

As Nabi's body, wrapped in a white shawl, neared the grave, quietness descended over the crowd. Family and close friends then gathered to pour earth from plastic buckets into the open casket.

Stretching out across the cemetery were row upon row of empty graves still waiting to be filled in the coming days.

It was a stark reminder of the sheer scale of the killings, 50 dead among a small, tight-knit community in a town with a population of some 350,000 people.

Yet the mood in the compound remained joyous and steered away from despair.

Heavily tattooed biker gang members mingled with men wearing Afghan dress, non-Muslims and smartly dressed community leaders, embracing, sharing memories and stories.

A long line of mourners took turns to hug Nabi's sons.

"I'm happy because he went straight to Jannah (paradise)," Omar Nabi said. "The gunman didn't even know he opened the gates to heaven for my dad.

"He is laughing at him and smiling at us... Have you ever congratulated anybody for a death? This is the time and this is the place. Don't cry. Don't be sad. Congratulations. Your father made it to heaven."