SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The tragedy in New Zealand can be felt here in Santa Barbara as some 120 people gathered to worship with the Islamic community for Friday prayer service.
Islamic leaders say without that backbone of support from different faiths, it would be a really different experience for Muslims in our area.
“This is the basic humanity we've lost. We've lost the basic humanity to respect one another, to mutually live with one another,” said Yama Niazi.
Niazi reflects on what it was like to tell his daughter about the New Zealand terror attack that left at least 49 people dead.
“How do you explain to an eight or nine-year-old, why would someone do that? Well, they don't want certain people in their country, they're not comfortable with the different skin color of other people,” said Niazi.
The founder of the Blessed Tree Foundation has been working to ease fear and hatred through education, by addressing the lack of knowledge and extreme ignorance about Muslims and Islam.
“A lot of times there are genuine fears people have because they've never really met any Muslims,” said Niazi. "Through getting to know people and just giving them an opportunity to ask questions and address all of these issues there’s been a good positive effort," he adds.
Niazi says folks tend to reach out more after tragic events. “Any attack on any place of worship is an attack on all of us,” he says.
In the wake of the Christchurch mosque massacre, Niazi admits that a lot of people are depressed and don't know what to do but the support from the interfaith community helps with the healing.
“It helps us to heal and helps us to understand the gravity. It helps us as human beings to not see the hatred and come back to her senses that hey we are one human family and the rabbi today addressed the community and said we may be of different faiths, we may slightly believe in different things however, we are brothers and sisters in humanity and as he put it, we’re all from Adam and Eve,” said Niazi.
When asked why he felt the need to pray alongside his Muslim brothers and sisters, Rabbi Daniel Brenner of Congregation B’nai B’rith says when his community was struck by tragedy in October, over 1,100 people attended a vigil to show their support. Simply put, Rabbi Brenner says that was a healing moment for the community and he had to be with them today.
The former Imam of the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara says this latest mass shooting is not going to intimidate Muslims.
"We're going to stand strong, stand proud. We feel we are human beings and every single law of any type acknowledges human life is sacred and that's just something no one has a right to take away," said Niazi.
As the interfaith community stands in solidarity, we can all stand together this weekend.
There will be a community vigil at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on Sunday, March 17 at 5:00 P.M.