Interfaith allies expressed grief and solidarity with Muslims on Friday in response to a deadly terror attack at two New Zealand mosques.
The shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, which occurred during traditional Friday prayer services, left at least 49 people dead and injured dozens more. Local authorities have arrested and charged one man with murder and are holding at least two other suspects in custody in relation to the attacks, the Associated Press reports.
One of the alleged gunmen posted a 74-page manifesto identifying himself as a white nationalist, according to The New York Times. He also live-streamed video of the carnage online.
Leaders from New Zealand’s various religious traditions condemned the attack and expressed outrage that houses of worship were violated in this way.
Synagogues across New Zealand canceled Shabbat services in the wake of the shooting over concerns about the safety of their own communities, the Forward reported. The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand said it was devastated that people were attacked “in a place of worship and peace.”
“It is our responsibility to care for, respect and protect everyone and we all have the right to feel as safe in a place of worship as we do in our own homes,” the center’s CEO Chris Harris said in a statement.
Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen Auckland, a Sikh volunteer organization, said in a Facebook post that it has no words to describe the brutality of killing innocent people on their sacred day and in a sacred place. The group is asking its members to volunteer to provide food and funeral assistance to Christchurch’s Muslim community.
An ecumenical group of Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic and other Christian denominations in Christchurch issued a statement extending their love and support to the Muslim community.
“As members of two faith traditions, born out of a shared Abrahamic inheritance, we stand in solidarity with you,” the pastors wrote in their letter. “Looking, and crying, to God, the source of all.”
In the U.S., Shoulder to Shoulder, a national coalition of 35 religious denominations and faith-based organizations committed to standing against Islamophobia, called on people of faith to show solidarity with Muslims.
“We call on all people of faith and goodwill to listen to those impacted by anti-Muslim bigotry, get educated on the issues, contact your local mosque or Muslim, Arab, Sikh, or South Asian organization and show your solidarity through word and action,” the organization said in a statement.
The Sikh Coalition, a national advocacy group, pointed out on Twitter that American houses of worship have also been targeted by racist shootings in recent years ― including Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue; Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel AME Church; and Oak Creek’s Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
“No community or faith should ever feel unsafe in their house of worship,” the coalition said in a tweet.
Bend the Arc Jewish Action encouraged its followers to reject and condemn white nationalism and stand with American Muslims.
“After the Pittsburgh shooting, Muslim communities showed up for us, protecting us at vigils, actions, and Shabbat prayers,” the advocacy group said in a statement. “We must do the same for them.”
Sadhana, a progressive Hindu organization, encouraged its members to think more deeply about how to combat rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., India and all over the world. It urged people to speak out against Islamophobia in their own communities, participate in interfaith events and donate to New Zealand’s victims.
“We must all work together [to] eradicate the root causes of such violence: hatred, racism, nationalism, and religious exclusivism,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post.
In New York City, allies gathered near the Islamic Center of New York University with signs and words of support.
Maggie M. Siddiqi, a faith director for the Center for American Progress, noted that if non-Muslims are planning to join a Friday prayer service or another memorial event at a mosque, it is important to call the worship center’s leaders to confirm that it’s OK to attend. Mosques are often overcrowded to begin with, Siddiqi said, and extra attendees could present another burden for those who are already trying to care for the emotional and security needs of their communities. In addition, some worshippers may not feel safe having to face a sudden influx of unannounced strangers this weekend.
“Ask the organizers what would be most helpful for you to do, and don’t rely on them to organize anything FOR you. This is what allyship looks like,” Siddiqi wrote on Twitter.