New Zealand Special Olympics Athletes Show Solidarity Amid Grief at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - 16 March 2019: In the wake of the deadly shootings on Friday at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, athletes from Special Olympics New Zealand and Special Olympics United Arab Emirates (UAE), along with leaders of Special Olympics, gathered at the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi in a show of compassion and unity.

More than 100 mourners processed quietly into the mosque, then formed a circle and held hands in its vast courtyard before sunset. Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver made remarks before a long moment of silence.

“As we try to overcome our own brokenness from the chaos in the world we must remember that hate cannot defeat hate, only love can do that,” Shriver said. “I am so comforted being here among the forces of healing, the forces of understanding, the forces of compassion and the forces of tolerance. The world needs to know these forces are more powerful than anything.”

Special Olympics New Zealand has a delegation of 64 athletes and coaches in the UAE for the Special Olympics World Games. After they learned of the deadly attacks this morning, the grieving New Zealand delegation sought to comfort one another and to show solidarity with Muslims worldwide. Special Olympics World Games organizers also decided to hold a moment of silence before each event at the competition today (SAT 16 March) in a broad display of unity.

Referencing the tragedy in his home country, Special Olympics New Zealand basketball athlete Carlton Vivian, who is from Christchurch, said, at the Grand Mosque, “These people didn’t deserve this, no body deserves this.”

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a symbol of Islam and embodies the Islamic message of peace, tolerance and diversity. Among those to take a tour of the Mosque already this year are Pope Francis, the Head of the Catholic Church, and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb. During their visit to the UAE, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam signed the historic Human Fraternity document that calls for peace between nations, religions and races.

This year is the Year of Tolerance throughout the UAE and is the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics, a movement that prides itself on erasing the lines of division and fear of difference through the power of sport.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in more than 190 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including Bank of America, the Christmas Records Trust, The Coca-Cola Company, ESPN, Essilor Vision Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Microsoft, Safilo Group, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, TOYOTA, United Airlines, and The Walt Disney Company. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.

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Mark Daley
Special Olympics
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