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Thousands of people gathered up and down the country today to pay tribute to the 50 people who were killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks.

More than a thousand people attended a rally in central Auckland this afternoon to oppose racism, while thousands gathered for a vigil in Christchurch's North Hagley Park.

(Article continues beneath live blog).

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The group, Love Aotearoa, Hate Racism, organised the Auckland rally, which began at Aotea Square and marched through the city to Victoria Park.

The names of all 50 victims were read out before a two minute silence.

Rally attendee Rita Mara said it was "about unity".

"It's hard to recognise what racism is. It has been going on before we were all born. What makes a difference is today," she said.

About 100 members of the Filipino community, many of the migrant builders, took part in the march.

One of those, Noel Matencio, said there is racism in New Zealand.

People walk through central Auckland as part of the March for Peace rally. Photo / Dean Purcell
People walk through central Auckland as part of the March for Peace rally. Photo / Dean Purcell

"I am here to support peace in the face of the attacks that happened tragically in Christchurch. We are for peace and unity regardless of faith, colour, occupation and belief," Matencio said.

Masturah Mahadi, a 21- year-old Muslim born in Singapore, said she had never experienced racism in the 19 years she has lived in New Zealand.

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"I'm lucky. I have heard other people have had negative things said about them," she said.

Mahadi, who wears a hijab, or headscarf, all the time, said it did not make her feel uncomfortable.

She believed New Zealand has good race relations. "We are very diverse. Growing up in quite a diverse community you sort of learn to be accepting and tolerant."

John Sato, 95, supported by Constable Rob and actor Bruce Hopkins joins the march for peace rally in Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell
John Sato, 95, supported by Constable Rob and actor Bruce Hopkins joins the march for peace rally in Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell

John Sato, aged 95 and one of two Japanese in the NZ Army during World War II, was at the rear of the march, helped along by Constable "Rob" and actor Bruce Hopkins, most famous for his portrayal of Gamling in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Sato said he has seen a lot of hate and racism in his life - "it's under cover usually", saying he is a member of a humanitarian organisation that stood for compassion and love made up of people of all races.

"In our magazine there is one picture there of a Zulu grandmother helping a man with aids. That's the way we work. We don't advertise. We don't say we are goody, goody. You get on with it. We are all human," he said.

Sato said he found the events in Christchurch sad that humans can be hurt by some kind of strange idea.

"Why do they do it? I can't understand it," said Sato, who took two buses from his home in Howick to take part in the march.

One of the event organisers, Danni Wilkinson, defended the use of the words "Hate Racism" as part of the theme for today's march.

A March for Peace was held in Auckland today. Photo / Dean Purcell
A March for Peace was held in Auckland today. Photo / Dean Purcell

She said Martin Luther King's quote "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that" was used to explain why the word 'hate' should not be used.

But to that, she said there was another famous civil rights activist, Malcolm X, who said: "Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law and respect everyone. But if someone puts a hand on you, send them to the cemetery."

Wilkinson told the large crowd at Victoria Park she was not suggesting people take the law into their own hand, but the quote speak volumes to the words "Hate Racism".

"We do hate racism. Racism, Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry do unspeakable evil in our world and we should not tolerate it. We should hate it. We are here today to take that stand, to make it clear we do hate racism. Hate brings power and now we are going to use that power of hate to stand up for the right things - peace, love, tolerance - and to stamp out all that is wrong with the world - fascism, racism and bigotry in all its forms," Wilkinson said.

A little girl holds a
A little girl holds a "love and solidarity" sign during the March for Peace. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland rally spokesman Joe Carolan said that while the shooting at the mosques was the deed of one gunman, the attack is the tragic consequence of Aotearoa's failure to address racism within its midst.

"In contrast to the picture of 'a peaceful, harmonious, tolerant' society painted over the past week, Aotearoa for too long has seen the scapegoating of migrants and refugees, with mainstream politicians blaming immigration for our housing and economic crisis.

"This has given confidence to fascist elements here and overseas, culminating in last week's tragic and harrowing outcome. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is himself guilty of perpetuating the myth that mosques conceal a fundamentalist underbelly which poses a threat to Aotearoa. We utterly reject and condemn this anti-Muslim rhetoric," said Carolan

Love Aotearoa Hate Racism is a coalition of unions, community, and migrant groups, which was formed last July in response to attempts by the far right to peddle their Islamophobic, anti-migrant, anti-refugee politics on New Zealand soil.

Other groups associated with the rally included United Union, Socialist Aotearoa, Auckland Unitarians, Migrant Workers Association of Aotearoa, NZ Palestine Solidarity Network and Organise Aotearoa.

Thousands gather for Christchurch vigil

Meanwhile thousands of Cantabrians gathered for a vigil in memory of those killed in the shootings.

The vigil - Remember Those Who Lost Their Lives 15-3-19 - started at 5pm at North Hagley Park.

The vigil started with Linwood mosque Imam Alabi Lateef Zirullah reciting an Islamic prayer.

"Whatever happens will never, never separate us;" he said

"This is New Zealand, we live in Aroha, Aroha, Aroha."

The names of the 50 fallen brothers, sisters and children were read to the crowd, followed by a minute's silence and a Māori welcome.

"You are welcome here as whānau, you are whānau, " the Māori speaker said.

"May your spirits look down on us and give us love."

Thousands of people then got to their feet to sing the national anthem.

The huge crowd at the vigil for the 50 victims of the terror attacks, North Hagley Park. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The huge crowd at the vigil for the 50 victims of the terror attacks, North Hagley Park. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Catholic Bishop of Christchurch Paul Martin read a blessing to the crowd and called on God to help people transform hatred to love and darkness to light.

The blessing was followed by a performance of You'll Never Walk Alone from local opera singers.

The University of Canterbury Muslim Association president addressed the masses and thanked the Prime Minister saying she was the true definition of example - not just someone who "dresses fancy".

"We want to thank the New Zealand people for showing solidarity through these times of hardship... we appreciate you, we thank you, we love you very much."

The leader the kapa haka group which performed two waiata, asked the crowd to turn around and hug the person next ot them.

Thousands did so in a moving display of humanity.

Shaymaa Abdullah, of Sydney, wipes away her tears during the vigil for the 50 victims. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Shaymaa Abdullah, of Sydney, wipes away her tears during the vigil for the 50 victims. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Cashmere High School Head Boy Okirano Tilaia, who organised a smaller vigil last week for students, spoke to the crowd.

"I want you tonight to redefine - when you see hatred you say love, when you see anger you say peace.

"We will not let these horrific events define who we are."

He said people needed to move away from socially defined brackets and accept difference.

"We are all one... we must stand tall.

"Instead of staying quiet, we must rise above."

He paid tribute to his schoolmates killed in the terror attacks.

"We will rise up, unafraid... in spite of the ache, we will rise up for you."

"The most important thing is love."

Cashmere High School student Ryan Nicholson Plank followed her head boy onto the stage to sing a song written specifically for today's event.

University of Canterbury Students Association president Sam Brosnahan followed on stage, saying the victims of the shooting were treasured and loved "beyond measure".

"We stand by you our Muslim brothers, sisters, friends and whānau," he said.

"Your tears are our tears."

Brosnahan said he would always be moved by the words of Farid Ahmed who said he has forgiven the gunman.

He said the outpouring of love and support of thousands of Kiwis including the first responders and police had been phenomenal but going forward hugs and kind words were not enough.

"Imagine Aotearoa opening our arms our homes and our lives to others on a continual basis... a lifetime commitment to empathise and to show love to absolutely everyone."

The crowd stood to applaud the first responder who put their lives on the line for their community on March 15.

The vigil was organised by Scott Esdaile, who also organised a recent protest in Christchurch against a water bottling company shipping billions of litres of water offshore.

He said he wanted to bring the community together and encouraged everyone to stand strong and carry on looking after each other "from here on out".

The final song played was fittingly Dave Dobbyn's Welcome Home.