The Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown held a vigil Friday evening to honor the 50 people killed during the March 15 shootings at two mosques in New Zealand. Most of the people in the large crowd on Friday echoed the same sentiment — murder in the name of hate needs to stop.
Filling the social hall of the Masjid Al-Khair mosque on Youngstown’s south side were 175 people representing many of the area’s religions.
“We pray that this spirit of violence will be removed from this land,” said Minister Ted Brown, with the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches.
Behind the speaker’s stand were 50 candles — one for each person killed in the mosque shootings. Above the candles was a sign, letting everyone know the reason for the vigil.
It read, “The Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown presents interfaith vigil remembering the victims of the Christchurch, NZ shooting. Let us all stand together against hate and violence.”
“I realize that simple words cannot match the depth of our sorrow, nor can they heal our wounded hearts,” said Hindu priest Dr. Sudhakar Rao.
“When we hear people express views that we’re glad nobody else is hearing, do we ever confront them? Ever tell them, ‘What’s wrong with you?'” said Ray Nakley, an Arab American.
Ten people spoke, including Richard Marlin, president of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, who referenced last October’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
“Our Muslim brothers and sisters, our Muslim community, was there to support us and we are here now to help support you,” he said.
Muslim Iman Azzeddine Jaidi also spoke. He received a round of applause when he put the vigil — and all of the people who gathered — into perspective.
“These people tried to divide us but look how we’re together, from different faiths,” Jaidi said.
Jewish Rabbi Dario Hunter ended his talk with a prayer.
“We are not here to hate or destroy but to love. And let us say amen,” he said.
Dr. Khalid Iqbal, with the Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown, called the vigil a “great interfaith forum with people stating their ideas in different ways.”