British singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam delivered an emotional performance of some of his hit songs on Friday, as part of New Zealand’s National Remembrance Service in Christchurch.
Islam, who is also known as Cat Stevens, took to a makeshift stage at Hagley Park, where some 20,000 people gathered to honor victims of the March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch that killed 50 worshippers.
One of the songs he performed was his 1971 smash “Peace Train,” which had lines like: "Now I've been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is. Why must we go on hating? Why can't we live in bliss?"
In an interview with a local media outlet, the Muslim singer recalled worshipping at Masjid Al Noor, one of the targeted mosques, in December of 2017, where he ended his “Peace Train” 50th anniversary tour.
He could still remember some of the faces of those at the memorial service, he said.
“As a city I remember a peaceful, orderly place and very nice people and suddenly this monster enters the fray and starts shooting and picks his target,” Islam told local media company Stuff, while noting the “incredible backlash of kindness and love and unity” from the public, especially from people in New Zealand.
“The government rarely does anything of any importance in the aftermath. Here (New Zealand) the story is different… The way in which the indigenous population is part of the culture and is preserved, honored and respected. You don't see that in the US,” Islam, who is presumably one of the most prominent Muslims in the West, said.
Asked about how he ended up doing the performance, Islam said: “I haven't done that much recently. We got the invitation from Prime Minister's office. It was like, 'wow' this is a big step, but it's one I've got to take. We need to be here.”
The 70-year-old singer was joined on stage by double-bassist Bruce Lynch.
One attendee took a video of the performance: