Dozens gather in Dillon in show of solidarity with Muslim community a week after Christchurch attacks
On Friday morning, thousands of individuals gathered around the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, taking in the Muslim call to prayer and observing a moment of silence as the crowd mourned the 50 people who lost their lives in a pair of terrorist attacks on mosques in the city last week.
Hours later, more than 7,000 miles away, dozens of Summit County residents joined together inside the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon to stand in solidarity with the county’s Muslim community as they came to worship. Though the attacks were half a world away, the reverberations were undoubtedly felt right here at home.
“It impacted me a lot because killing one human being is like killing the whole human race, and that’s what Islam teaches you about,” said Ousmane Ly, a native of Senegal who moved to Summit County last year. “Killing 50 people is outrageous — people who came together in one place to worship God, who have done nothing to you. You walk up out of nowhere with hatred filled inside you. There are no words to describe these kinds of attacks.”
In response to the attacks, the Spiritual Support Committee of the Summit Colorado Interfaith Council, led by Diane Luellen, organized an event calling on residents to gather inside the lobby of the church on Friday — where the county’s Muslim community comes every week to worship in the absence of a mosque — to show their support. Participants formed a reception line outside of the sanctuary, ushering those who had come to pray into the church with signs of encouragement and calls of Salaam-Alaikum, or “peace be unto you.”
Afterward, several participants followed the worshipers into the sanctuary and took part in the service. In addition to the Arabic sermon delivered by Imam Mamadou Tidiane to the group, Pastor Liliana Stahlberg delivered some words of unity to the mixed-faith congregation.
“Religion at its best brings people together, all people,” said Stahlberg. “Religion at its worst creates divisions among men and women, skin colors, ethnicities, different human expressions of love; at it’s worst religion creates us versus them, over and over again. I pray and hope the day will come when religion will live up to its name and bring all people together in the unity of love and acceptance of all diversities. And let that day begin today.”
For the larger Muslim community in Summit and those making their way to the church on Friday — more than 50 in total from a diversity of backgrounds, and representing a number of nationalities across West Africa, Europe, the United States and more — the show of support was appreciated.
“It’s a good reminder that we’re loved by the community, and we’ve shown something positive to the community for them to be there for us in this time of need,” said Lamine Kane, a former Silverthorne resident. “Regardless of stereotypical comments we might hear, and all the negativity we see, there’s love above all that’s still conquering. Realizing there’s a community willing to stand up and say no to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and hate in general is a big statement, let alone for them to come together and hold an event like this.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that the Interfaith Council has felt the need to hold an event in support of a community following a major tragedy. The group also hosted similar events following the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas that killed 26 in 2017, and following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that killed 11 last year.
For some community members, the simple gesture of arriving to show support following attacks like those in New Zealand is incredibly important.
“I felt that I needed to be here,” said Barb Kohler of Dillon. “I know a lot of the Muslims from around the community just by going around and shopping, and a couple of them have become very close to me. We just wanted to show them we love them.”
As global responses to these types of attacks become more common, some are hoping that the gatherings will not only help to show solidarity with victimized groups, but also help to create a better understanding between the different cultures and religions.
“I think this brings about an important topic with what happened in New Zealand,” said Parker Foy, a Colorado native. “It’s through that lack of understanding and education that causes fear. I think if we take more time to really concentrate on educating and removing that ignorance, we’ll reduce hatred and fear. We’re human beings, and we fear change and things being taken away from us. When we start to learn that’s not the case, and everybody is very accommodating and has this faith — especially in Islam — that is very peaceful and can cooperate in an amazing way to develop a community together in a positive manner, that alone will reduce these types of incidents.”
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