Bachar Houli has written an open letter to share his experiences following the Christchurch attacks and to say thank you to the many people that have subsequently reached out to himself and the broader Muslim community.

Dear Richmond members, supporters and the wider football community,

I wanted to write an open letter of thanks for the outpouring of support following the tragic attacks at the Al-Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch recently. It has warmed my community’s heart in very difficult times.

In the aftermath, I have been both humbled and motivated by the solidarity shown by the Australian community to stand together as one. In many ways it has reflected the statement made by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the aftermath of the tragedy -“We are one. They are us.”  

I was at training when I first heard of the Christchurch tragedy. I was in complete shock, felt numb and had many things racing through my head. What do I do? Why has this happened? Who did this? How can someone hurt innocent people like that? I spoke to the coaches and informed them that it didn’t feel right to continue training. They understood and I went home to be with my family.

Driving home, I found myself thinking about my daughter Sarah who insists on coming to the mosque with me. Worshipping with her by my side are some of the happiest moments in my life. I dread to think what those final moments were like for many in the mosques. I decided the best thing I could do is go to my local mosque in Newport and be there with my community.

The following morning, one of my Bachar Houli Academy sessions was held at Punt Road. I spoke to the young people before we started training telling them that they should not fear going to the mosque, to be proud of their faith and to encourage unity amongst all Australians.

Last Friday I travelled to Christchurch with fellow Muslim Sonny Bill Williams (SBW). I wasn’t sure how I could help, but I felt like I needed to be there to show my support in any way I could. I attended the mass burial on Friday afternoon, the silence only broken by the gentle sobbing around me. It sunk in how real this was.

I have been fortunate to meet some remarkable people and SBW ranks at the top of my list for humility and respect. Sonny organised for us to meet with some of the local Muslim community at the al-Noor mosque that evening, including the brother of the three-year-old Muaz who lost his life. I was nervous but they were very calm, sharing touching stories.

SBW is indeed a role model for me. He was the centre of attention and always offered his full attention and heart to the injured and their families. It truly put a huge smile on everyone’s face. I met around six patients, and each told their story, but above all, they urged the world to unite, to get along and to eliminate hate and division.

I will leave you with this - Islam is a religion of harmony and peace, do not let the ignorant tell you otherwise. Meet a Muslim with an open heart and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

As salam wa alakum (peace be upon you all)

Thank you,