ST. LOUIS – They may be from different faiths but St. Louis religious leaders have come together in condemning the hate and violence that happened in New Zealand.
They gathered at Daar Ul Islam Mosque in west St. Louis County. In prayer and word, members of the Islamic Foundation and the Interfaith Partnership condemned the horrific massacre in New Zealand, which saw one man murder at least 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch.
“Hate and terror have no religion but let us be real for a moment – this attack is a reminder that Islamophobia is real,” Mufti Asif Umar said.
As Muslims arrived for Friday prayer, they were greeted by a strong show of force by police. The US Attorney was also on hand. He said that federal state and local police were keeping a close watch on area mosques.
He said there was no known threat at the moment to those places of worship.
Religious leaders took turns talking about support for each other and fighting hate around the globe.
“It’s not us versus them; we are all together in this,” said Ghazala Hayat, spokeswoman for the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis.
Karen Aroesty, the regional director of ADL Heartland, said America has been an exporter of white supremacy. She said it was time people became more vigilant, especially when it comes to the internet. If you see something, say something.
“The whole cyber hate thing is very real. People have to be willing to identify when they think something might be suspicious,” Aroesty said
Although the gathering of religious leaders was filled with grief, it was tempered a little by the compassion they showed for one another.
“Hundreds of people came out today on a Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. to say to you that you are not alone we are with you and we love you,” said Rori Picker Neiss, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.
The US Attorney’s Hate Crimes Task Force met Friday. Those folks released a statement concerning New Zealand. It said, in part: “We mourn the loss of life…we mourn the loss of safety they had long felt.”