San Luis Obispo County residents came together with their Muslim neighbors on Friday to show their support following mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques.
The attacks — which occurred during midday prayers in the city of Christchurch — left at least 49 people dead and 48 others wounded, according to an Associated Press story.
Central Coast worshipers gathered for a Friday afternoon service at Mosque of Nasreen in San Luis Obispo alongside those who attended to show solidarity for their fellow community members.
Ahmed Deif, president of the Islamic Society of San Luis Obispo County, spoke to the group and thanked friends and neighbors for their support prior to leading worshipers in prayer.
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Deif said few members of the mosque were likely able to sleep last night after hearing of the attacks.
“We feel for them,” he said. “Their loss is our loss. They are our brothers and sisters, not just in religion, but in humanity.”
Deif said the Quran teaches that all humans are equal and deserve respect — that killing one innocent person is the same as killing all mankind.
“This is a religion that puts forgiveness above and beyond any feeling of hatred,” he said.
He encouraged worshipers to stand alongside those who support them to condemn hate and educate others about their faith: “It’s time to stand and tell them about our religion and our message.”
Standing together to reject hate
Following the service, Deif said it’s important to reject the attitudes that led to the New Zealand shootings, as well as the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue last fall.
Eleven people were killed and six people were wounded after a gunman opened fire during a ceremony at the Tree of Life Congregation in October.
“It doesn’t differentiate between any religion or any race,” Deif said of the hatred.
Waqas Anwar, a mosque member, said such attacks are equally sad regardless of which religion or house of worship they target, because “human blood is sacred.”
“We welcome all the support,” he said. “It’s comforting to know that people care.”
Garry Schmidt is not a member of the mosque but has been coming to services since 2015, when an attack at a San Bernardino holiday party left 14 people dead.
“I love these people,” he said as he left the mosque on Friday.
Schmidt worried there would be a backlash against the local Muslim community following the attack. Over the last four years, Schmidt, a self-described “follower of Jesus,” has bonded with his neighbors over their common faith.
“Not everything’s in common, but our humanity is,” he said.
He said it’s good to witness residents coming together to support each other during trying times.
“It’s great to see the community,” he said. “This is a very supportive community.”