Following the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed at least 49 people in two mosques, Portland’s Muslim community came together to reflect and mourn.
The Muslim Educational Trust (MET) held an interfaith prayer event after its Friday prayer in Tigard.
The event called on community members to “join in countering Islamophobia, racism and bigotry in all its forms and embark a new path on building an inclusive, welcoming and tolerant future,” according to a release by MET.
More than 200 people gathered in the MET prayer hall including local politicians, faith members and community members.
MET president Wajdi Said introduced speakers including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and others.
“We’re trying to, particularly on behalf of the young people here, explain the inexplicable and make sense of the senseless and find a sense of grounding and a sense of justice in a world that seems to lack either, but we’re going to do it,” Wheeler said. “And we’re going to do it by acknowledging our Muslim friends, neighbors, colleagues and family.”
He said he was still struggling to explain the shooting to his daughter.
“I want to be positive. There is hope. We must not despair. We must not recoil in fear. We must continue to come together like we’ve come together today and bring the best of what we have, the best of our humanity,” Wheeler said.
Many speakers addressed a group of Muslim children and other young people sitting near the front of the hall.
“I think this is an opportunity as Portland’s police chief to speak to the young people in the room,” Outlaw said. “We are here to protect you and keep you safe and I want you to know, during these times, keep your head up.”
MET president Said introduced Multnomah County Chair Kafoury to the stage specifically as a third-generation Syrian-American.
“I’m really, really sad and I’m tired,” Kafoury said. “We come together over and over and over to grieve and mourn and worry and pray and love, and it gets tiring.”
Kafoury, like many of the other speakers, also expressed her fear.
“I’m scared for my children. I’m scared for the children here today,” she said. “But that’s exactly what the forces of evil want us to feel. They want us to be sad. They want us to be tired and they want us to be scared, because not only are the white supremacists immoral, they’re cowards.
“They don’t want us coming together,” Kafoury said. “They don’t want us reaching out grabbing the hands of our brothers and sisters, because they know that we are strong when we are together.”