Community gathers in solidarity after New Zealand mass shooting

Henrico prayer vigil honors New Zealand victims

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - The public came together in solidarity with those impacted by the tragedy in New Zealand on Friday.

Henrico’s police chief joined other community leaders who wanted to show their support to those who practice the Muslim faith in Central Virginia. The message was: it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what faith you practice, we’re all one.

At the Islamic Center of Henrico on Friday, hearts were heavy - including the hearts of those who don’t worship here.

"We run to our places of worship to seek refuge and healing not unprecedented violence and we’ve seen this in Pittsburgh, in South Carolina, in other places. It just does not make sense,” said Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas.

He joined the police chief and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger in mourning lives lost at a Mosque in New Zealand.

"There was a killing, although it is all the way on the other side of the world, but it touches your heart the same as though it were next door,” organizer Zulfi Khan said.

He helped facilitate the prayer service where people of all backgrounds prayed for hate to diminish.

"We should not and must not let even a single word of hate or a single sentence by somebody or even just a gesture of hate should not be acceptable in our civilized society,” Khan said.

"This is my first time in a Muslim house of worship,” 18-year-old Adam Sachs said.

But he knew he had to be here.

"We had a very serious tragedy with a mass shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, and our Muslim brothers and sisters were also at the vigil that the Jewish community had,” he said.

It's a true display of unity, which stands stronger than unimaginable evil.

“I asked myself, I think we all asked ourselves the question – ‘What could lead someone to such an outrageously hateful act?’” Vithoulkas said.

Sunday evening there will be another vigil service at the Islamic Center of Virginia on Buford Road in Chesterfield. This one is organized by leaders of various faiths. It begins at 6 p.m. and is open to the public.

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