OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) – Interfaith groups in Oklahoma are standing together in solidarity after a terror attack in New Zealand claimed the lives of 49 people.
Police have arrested three people, including a 28-year-old self-described “white Australian.” He’s been charged with murder.
“Today we are brought here together by an act of hate, violence and bigotry. Forty-nine people are dead. Dozens more are wounded after these attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, after one hateful man opened fire on some peacefully praying people in their house of worship,” said Veronica Laizure, civil rights director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, or CAIR-OK.
Interfaith leaders in Oklahoma joined together for a news conference Friday morning and called the attack an attack on all of us.
“When there is an attack on one of us, it is an attack on all of us. Full stop. And we have to come out with one voice, which is what you are seeing here today, to say this is not OK and we reject the fear and the hate underlying the violence that happened yesterday,” said the Rev. Lori Walke, with Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ.
Imam Imad Enchassi, with the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said the gunman walked into a mosque in the holiest month for Muslims.
“On the holiest day for Muslims, the day of Friday; the holiest time for Muslims, Jumu’ah prayer; and in the holiest place for Muslims, inside a mosque,” said Enchassi.
Interfaith leaders said this is a time to work to find a way to come together.
“What this man wanted was to scare people away and to intimidate them out of the expression of their faith. We will not let that succeed,” said Laizure.
“We have to come together, not only as people of faith, but we have to see past our differences and see we are human beings and we share a common humanity and that life, life is precious,” said Adam Soltani, executive director of CAIR-OK.
Laizure said that, while CAIR-OK doesn’t believe there are any active threats in Oklahoma, security is being increased at houses of worship and mosques.
“We are, of course, encouraging our community to increase their vigilance as they attend Jumu’ah prayers today and to communicate with local law enforcement should there be any concerns,” said Laizure.
“We owe it to ourselves as people, as human beings, as Oklahomans, to come together and to heal these wounds,” said Soltani.
Security has also been increased at mosques across the country, including New York, Detroit and Chicago.
“We want to encourage people to know the Muslim community is safe and protected and that we are keeping an eye out, that we do have everyone’s back and that local law enforcement is taking all threats very, very seriously and will be responding to them accordingly, should that occur,” said Laizure.
Enchassi said he has asked his congregation to be careful but not intimidated.
‘We will not be intimidated because we live in a city that knows who we are. We have the interfaith community here amongst us that we know that we, as Oklahomans, as Americans, are better than that,” said Enchassi.
Interfaith leaders are calling on elected officials to contact local mosques and ask how they can support them and can show solidarity.
“These pockets of hatred are made stronger or weaker by the larger narratives of leadership. When the leaders of our nations, states or our communities come out in solidarity with minorities and the oppressed, it cuts off the air supply of hate groups,” said Lani Habrock, government affairs director of CAIR-OK.
Habrock also said the group are calling on faith leaders to speak out.
“Speak out against rhetoric that divides us and points fingers at immigrants, religious minorities and other oppressed peoples and blames them for problems,” said Habrock.
Lastly, she is calling for the people of Oklahoma to come together as one.
“We call on the people of Oklahoma to see this atrocity as a tragedy, not against people far removed by oceans, race and religion but as an assault on our very selves., as an assault on our brothers and sisters of humanity, a tragedy against innocent citizens who were people of faith and family just like ourselves,” said Habrock.
“Let us love and know one another and let’s heal together,” said Soltani.