Interfaith Vigils Held in the Wake of NZ Church Shootings

The vigils saw attendance from both Jews and Christians.

A video posted to Twitter showing a stranger walking towards a New York mosque carrying a bouquet of roses has been liked over 84,000 times. The man then handed the flowers to a worshiper, saying the roses were his expression of sympathy which arose from the loss of 50 lives due to a terrorist attack in New Zealand. His message was clear: Muslims are not alone. The same message was heard in interfaith gatherings and vigils all over the United States.

The attacker was an Australian citizen who hated Muslims, people of color, and immigrants. He regularly followed President Trump online and symbolized white nationalist ideology. At a time when many Muslims say they feel isolated, with their insecurity multiplied by the hostile attitude of even elected officials like the U.S. President, it is reassuring to witness that multiple faith groups have stepped in to condemn hate and express solidarity.

Jewish communities all over the United States attended services and vigils at community mosques to express concern and support. An interactive map was coded by Bend the Arc, a Jewish action organization, to enable users to locate a solidarity rally or a vigil near them. The Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester and the Levine Center to End Hate organized members of their respective Jewish communities to stand outside the Islamic Center of Rochester. The March 17 event was held to show solidarity and support with the Muslim community. Many of those who held vigil carried handmade signs.

Reverend Joseph Hilinski of Cleveland spoke with many other faith leaders on the steps of the Cleveland city hall. The Catholic priest said they all had experienced hate, and they should pray to be strong together. He added that all faith leaders should come forward and take the necessary action to remove all such hatred. Ginna Green, a member of the Jewish advocacy group Bend the Arc, said there is a common thread which binds geographically diverse tragedies like the Christchurch shooting and Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in the United States and that is a hateful, violent, and destructive white nationalist ideology which targets everyone. She said all could be safe if everyone is together.

The South Bay area in Northern California witnessed Jews attending Friday prayers at the San Jose located South Bay Islamic Association.

The Jewish community in New York joined the many hundreds of ordinary New Yorkers who assembled at the Washington Square Park for a vigil and an interfaith prayer session.

At a vigil in Orlando, Muslim activist Rasha Mubarak said “In Orlando we understand what it means to come through pain but we also understand what it means to find power in that pain. We are not going to let this divide us. We’re going to mourn for the dead, but we’re going to fight for the living.”

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