NZ candlelit vigil in Youngstown

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Various faiths represented in show of support

By Amanda Tonoli


A candlelit vigil for the victims of the New Zealand mosque shootings turned into a forum for people of various faiths and cultures to stand together to support one another, said Khalid Iqbal, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown.

More than 100 people gathered in the social room of the Masjid al-Khair mosque on Homewood Avenue to reflect on the tragedy a week ago in Christchurch, New Zealand. An avowed white supremacist killed 50 Muslim worshipers.

The program started with a moment of silence for the deceased. “We are here to remember, to mourn and to pray for the 50 innocent men, women and children who died in their place of worship,” Iqbal said. “We welcome everybody to stand in solidarity with us.”

Iqbal said it was a true honor to have so many religious groups come together to be represented at the vigil.

Ted Brown, Mahoning Valley Association of Churches president, said he was committed to open dialogue, communication and relationship building.

“All of us are in this together,” he said. “It’s about peace, unity, equity, love for a fellow man and to do good to one another. ... Good always conquers over evil, [and] light always dispels darkness. We will work together to create an environment of love so desperately needed at such a time as this.”

Richard Marlin, president of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation board, said he was sickened and devastated by the reason everyone had gathered.

“The local Jewish community stands with you because we understand,” he said to the crowd. “There is no good to be found with those who march in praise of white nationalism and white supremacy. There is only one side, one way of walking with God and understanding God as we each come to God in our own traditions.”

A man who said he hated Jews opened fire in October at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people and injuring seven others. They were attending Shabbat morning services.

No one should fear attending a place of worship, Marlin continued, adding his heart goes out to the families of those killed and injured.

In a prayer, Marlin said: “Lives have ended, but lights are never extinguished.”

Ray Nakley, a member of the Arab Community Center, said there are too many gatherings like the one Friday.

“We have a lot of problems as a human race,” he said. “I’m sick of events like this, and all I can say is we all have a responsibility when we’re confronted with it. ... I don’t have the answers. I just wish and hope and pray eventually we won’t have to do this anymore.”

The main viewpoint was reinforced with each speaker, Iqbal said. “We are one, and we should stay one,” he said.

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