PORTLAND, Ore. — Hundreds gathered at the Muslim Educational Trust to mourn the victims of the horrendous attack in Christchurch, New Zealand - and pray for healing.
Muslim communities around the world are rattled, as their own were attacked and killed in an act rooted in white supremacy and extremism.
“We want to send message a strong message that we are one family there is only one race – that is the human race,” Muslim Educational Trust (MET) co-founder Wajdi Said told the crowd. “There is no room for bigotry and hate in our public square.”
As kids came to school at the Islamic School of MET, teachers tried to grapple with reality.
“Today was definitely a little challenging emotionally just because I heard kids first thing discussing it,” teacher Kim Carter said.
They simply addressed what happened, Carter said, careful not to incite more fear.
“You think of a religious place, your house of worship as your safe haven. So, for it to have happened there it’s just unbelievable,” Carter added.
Religious, government and law enforcement leaders are encouraging the Portland Muslim community not to choose fear.
“We cannot be intimidated by anybody or such horrible acts. We need to engage and claim the positive narrative, and we need elected officials to stay focused and positive,” Said told KGW.
“We care because what happened in Christchurch affects every one of us because its root is about something we all deal every day. And it’s called hate,” Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church of Portland Pastor Matt Hennessee told the crowd.
But to overcome hate, religious and government said, we must choose love.
“But I want to remind everyone of us as people of faith and all of God’s children to remind us there is something else that is real. And that is love,” Hennessee said.
People of all faiths, backgrounds, and ages flooded the Muslim Educational Trust Friday, standing in solidarity with those targeted in New Zealand and around the world.
“It is very important for us, for people of good will, to stand and stop and say enough is enough,” Said added.
“True change will come not in the masses but individually - each of us, in our hearts,” a local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) leader said to the audience.
Those who spoke on Friday are calling on the community to join forces to end terrorism, hate and violence.
“To our Muslim friends, I want you to know this: Portland stands with you. We support you. And we love you,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “We have this opportunity, instead of choosing fear, we choose to come together and we choose to support you and choose to wrap our arms around you and choose to speak of love.”