Three years after being wounded in a white-supremacist terror attack, survivor Temel Atacocugu used leg power to travel from Dunedin to Christchurch to support peace and unity, rather than hatred and division.
Mr Atacocugu was struck by nine bullets during the March 15, 2019, terror attack. Five bullets hit his legs. The injuries had a major impact on his daily life and his ability to walk.
His 350km Walk for Peace journey, which followed the same route as the terrorist, arrived in Ashburton last Friday where he was greeted by Mid Cantabrians, including Rangitata MP Jo Luxton, Ashburton District mayor Neil Brown and members of the Hakatere Multicultural Council.
Mr Atacocugu, and supporters, gathered at the mosque in Tinwald, before walking in unity to the Ashburton Public Library for a public get together.
Mr Atacocugu’s walk to Christchurch was due to end in time for the third anniversary commemorations on March 15 at Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch where 51 people were killed and dozens more injured.
He started walking from the Octagon, in Dunedin on March 1.
However his walk was cut short at Makikihi when he was admitted to Timaru Hospital due to a blood infection. By then he had deep blisters on his heels.
But Mr Atacocugu was determined to continue and added cycling to his plan.
He wanted the trip to erase the terrorist’s ideology and connection to Dunedin and Christchurch. He was also raising money the Key to Life Charitable Trust, the Child Cancer Foundation and Save the Children.
Before starting his walk north Mr Atacocugu said he felt amazing despite his injuries.
“I will do this for our future kids and I will do this for our children; nothing can stop me,” he said.
The perpetrator of the terrorist attack travelled to Christchurch out of hatred and to serve an extremist ideology, but three years later Mr Atacocugu said he was making the same journey as a survivor to spread a message of peace.