Former New Zealand rugby sevens player Sonny Bill Williams has paid tribute to the victims of the deadly Christchurch shooting with a tearful Twitter posting.
Williams, a devout Muslim who converted to Islam in 2009, was in tears and barely able to speak in his 64-second Twitter post, telling families of those killed that “you are all in Paradise”.
“I heard the news. I couldn’t put it into words how I’m feeling right now,” Williams said while in his car. “Just sending my duas [prayers] to the families. Apparently there are 30 people dead. Sending out my duas [for] everyone that’s been killed today in Christchurch.
“The families, you can take … just sending out my duas to the loved ones. InshaAllah [God willing] you are all in Paradise. I’m just deeply, deeply saddened that this would happen in New Zealand.”
My heart is hurting about the news coming out of Christchurch. Sending love & prayers to the effected families❤️😢 pic.twitter.com/7PX9wc56b8
— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) March 15, 2019
Reports say a heavily armed gunman clad in military-style gear opened fire on Friday at two mosques in Christchurch, killing multiple people. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
Police are reported to have one person in custody and have advised residents of Christchurch to stay off the streets.
Williams, 33, represented New Zealand at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. He had quit 15s after the 2015 World Cup to focus on getting into the All Blacks side for rugby sevens Olympic debut.
Christchurch, we stand with you during this time. Our thoughts and sympathies are with everyone affected by today’s tragedy. Stay strong. Kia Kaha. 🖤
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) March 15, 2019
He is a two-time world champion with the All Blacks in 15s, having won 51 caps, and also represented the New Zealand rugby league team, having started his career in the 13-man code. He is also a former heavyweight boxer.
Last year, he travelled to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, to perform the Umrah pilgrimage.