Al-Hidaya Center holds vigil for victims of New Zealand mosque attacks

March 22, 2019 09:47 AM

LATHAM – Thursday marked one week since a gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand.

A vigil was held at the Al-Hidaya Center to honor the victims.

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"We are part of the same community, the Islamic community,” said Khalid Bhatti of the Al-Hidaya Center. “We feel for each other, we feel for all the people in the community.”

It wasn’t just people of Islamic Faith who came out to Thursday's vigil. 

"It's good to see people coming together from the Muslim community, connected with the Jewish community, connected with the Christian community, that enables them to empathize and to join together in prayer,” said Congressman Paul Tonko (D).

Along with prayer, the vigil included videos to remember the New Zealand victims and taking time to educate people on the Islamic faith.

"I think when people do not have understanding of our religion, it is important to know because once we know each other there tends to be comfort, there tends to be understanding,” said Bhatti.

One woman who is Roman Catholic said it was important to come out for her neighbors and friends.

“It really is an attack on all of us,” said Deb Riitano of Albany “So we need to keep coming together, we need to keep having the discussion, we need to keep connecting on every level so that when these kinds of things, when they do occur, we are one. We're not just supporting the other, we are the other.”

The vigil also came on the heels of New Zealand’s Prime Minister announcing the country is planning to ban nearly all military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles.

“We are very happy about that, in fact I think this is long overdue,” said Bhatti. “People have been talking about this in this country for many, many years.”

Congressman Tonko also applauded the quick move.

“I’m just impacted by how quickly they responded in the midst of their tragedy,” said Tonko. “And said we need to do something to show a positive reinforcement or positive feedback that aims to prevent a repeat of such heinous crimes.”


Emily De Vito

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