SPRINGFIELD, NJ - In the wake of the Christchurch shootings that left 50 members of New Zealand's Muslim community dead, residents of every religious stripe came together for an evening of healing and hope.
Approximately 130 people were in attendance at the Candle Light Vigil for Peace, a memorial service to honor those who had been killed in the attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand late last week. The event took place at Temple Sha'arey Shalom.
Prayers and song mingled at the event, as participants held and lit memorial candles. Clergy and mourners of all faiths were on hand, including an imam and worshippers from the nearby Islamic Center of Union County (ICUC).
As Rabbi Renee Edelman of temple Sha'arey Shalom explained, it was a chance to gather together and show locals of the Muslim faith that strength and solidarity would be the defining characteristics of Springfield in the aftermath of such a shocking attack.
"As a member of the clergy and a person of faith, I think it is crucial that we bring everyone together and come together in solidarity so that we can mourn what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand," Edelman said.
She added, "No one should feel alone, and with 50 souls killed overseas, we need to let the Muslim community know that we stand with them, that we hold their hand and that we cry with them. And this is why the community comes together."
Members of the township committee were also on hand, including mayor Erica Dubois and several other committeemen. One of the attendees was committeeman Alex Keiser. As Keiser explained, it was key for him personally to come out and support those who are still grieving after the most recent attack.
"As a local leader, I think it's important that I show my support and make sure that we all stand up against hate, and make sure that we bring all communities together," Keiser said. "It's tragic that during my time in office, already we've had a number of vigils, so I think that speaks to what we have to do as a community to bring everyone together and get some peace."
Abeer Younis was one of the Muslim worshipers at the vigil. A resident of Union and member of ICUC, Younis was on hand at the vigil to mourn, but also to find solidarity within the community, As she explained, it was nice to see that in the wake of such a horrific attack, there were still kind people in the world.
"It's touched my heart, you know," Younis said. "It's feeling like, you know, 'still the world is safe.'"
She added. "We have the kindest people, it doesn't matter where you're from, what religion you are, still we have good people in the world. That's nice to see."