I, like many across America and the world, was horrified and saddened by the wanton slaughter of 50 innocent Muslim men, women and children as they were worshipping in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
An equal number suffered wounds, some of them grievous.
One feels so helpless half the world away, and I felt the strong need to show my support and solidarity in some tangible way.
I learned that there would be a memorial service at the Islamic Center in Amherst on Sunday, March 17, sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, and I decided to attend. The large room at the mosque was full to overflowing with concerned members of many different faiths. Those who stood to speak were Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Bahá’ís, Hindus and Buddhists.
I was struck that those in attendance were there because of their faith, and their firm commitment that God exists in all religions, and that religious faith does not separate us, but rather joins us.
Again and again, speakers referred to the Muslims in New Zealand as brothers and sisters, and spoke of being in solidarity with them. Those who stood to add their voices spoke of peace, whether it was “As-Salaam-Alaikum” in Arabic, “Shalom” in Hebrew, or “Peace be with you” in English.
It brought to mind a powerful column that David Brooks wrote in February in the New York Times regarding the pain in the world caused by fear and mistrust of others.
He called on us all to reverse the damage caused by those who use stereotyping, fear and violence to rip apart the social fabric, and to instead become “weavers” who knit together that same social fabric.
I know that it is hard to knit the threads of peace halfway across the world, but those who were present in the Islamic Center that day were essentially committing themselves to doing that essential work.