Three years after a terrorist attacked a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, and killed 51 people, a survivor who was shot nine times retraced the gunman’s path to reclaim the journey for peace.
Over two weeks, 47-year-old Temel Atacocugu cycled and walked the gunman’s 360-kilometer drive from Dunedin to the two mosques in Christchurch, arriving on Tuesday Mar. 15, the third anniversary of the attack.
“I wanted to fix this damage,” Atacocugu said. “Because three years ago, he started that journey with hate.”
During the attack in 2019, Atacocugu was shot in the mouth, left arm and both legs.
He often felt the pain from his injuries during his walk and ride, which he began on Mar. 1, braving the changing weather, blisters and a blood infection that left him in the hospital for two nights.
He cycled part of the way, determined to make it to the mosque to mark the anniversary.
Along his journey, he received an outpouring of support, with different people joining him to walk, cycle and stop for coffee, RNZ reported.
On Tuesday, joined by about 50 supporters, Atacocugu entered Al Noor Mosque at 1:40 pm – the exact time he was shot during Friday prayers in 2019.
He also raised NZ$64,000 (US$43,000) for three charities benefitting children.
“All New Zealand is one,” Atacocugu said. “Terrorist is nil.”
The Australian white supremacist who committed the attack was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 2020.