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Berlin Mosque Holds Interfaith Vigil for Orlando, Florida Shooting Victims

Katie Burns
Dr. Reza Mansoor, speaking at the Berlin Mosque on Tuesday
“This person took the lives of all of us 50 times over.”
Dr. Reza Mansoor

The Islamic Association of Greater Hartford hosted an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Orlando, Florida shooting on Tuesday night. Attendees came together to try to make sense of the events that occurred. 

Almost 200 people filed into a crowded, carpeted room at the mosque, making small talk. Some were wearing head scarves, others yarmulkes, and others wore crosses -- but all were barefoot as they entered the Berlin Mosque.

Dr. Reza Mansoor, president of IAGH, invited faith leaders and members of the LGBTQ community to speak at the public event.

“It’s good to be in solidarity with all of you, it’s good to be in solidarity with all of America standing united here, and in particular with the LGBT community that have suffered horribly by this act,” Mansoor said.

Mansoor acknowledged how upsetting it was that such an act occurred during the month of Ramadan, which he said is one of the most spiritual months for Muslims.

“As many of you know, the Qu'ran is very clear. The killing of a single person is as though you killed all of humanity. And the saving of a single person is as though you saved all of humanity,” Mansoor said. “This person took the lives of all of us 50 times over.”

The vigil began with a recitation of the Qu'ran and a corresponding translation. Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and non-religious people took turns sharing their reflections and prayers.

Rabbi Herb Brockman condemned the hateful rhetoric that not only contributed to the shooting, but to the discussion around it.

Rabbi Herb Brockman, from the Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, addressed the crowd, some of whom were seated in chairs. Others sat on the floor along the wall in the Islamic tradition.

“When I thought about [being] here this evening, my heart was broken,” Brockman said. “But seeing all of you here, being here together, my heart is full.”

Brockman condemned the hateful rhetoric that not only contributed to the shooting, but to the discussion around it.

“While this is clearly the result of the deranged and pathetic mind of one individual, it is fueled like pouring gasoline on a match, those who would inflame the passions and incite anger toward others,” he said.

Robin McHaelen, executive director of the non-profit True Colors,  recognized the painful timing of events for the LGBTQ community as the Stonewall riots began in June. She said that after a series of police raids at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a woman got fed up and threw her shoe at a police officer, inciting a series of riots that lasted three days.

“June is a month in which we commemorate that moment in our time and in our history where we suddenly said, it’s not okay for you to not let us be who we are,” McHaelen said.

Credit Katie Burns
The Berlin Mosque

McHaelen drew parallels between the LGBTQ community and the Muslim community, in how they are perceived by others.

“This individual who did what he did in Orlando wasn’t allowed to be an individual person, he was somebody who was forced to represent all Muslims everywhere and that’s wrong,” McHaelen said.

There were 15 speakers at the vigil, some of whom Dr. Mansoor invited up at the last minute. He invited Berlin Police Chief  Paul Fitzgerald to speak, and told the crowd that Fitzgerald had made a police escort available at the mosque for whoever needed it since the day of the shooting.

Though the conversation mostly focused on mourning, and solidarity, the topic of gun violence made its way into the conversation.  Reverend Donald L. Hamer of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Hartford, pointed out the strides that still need to be made for the LGBTQ community, as well as the need for further gun legislation.

“I was shocked to actually witness for the first time via the video from a cell phone the incessant and prolonged rapid gunfire coming from that lone gun,” Hamer said.  “It is absurd that our congressional leadership, hiding behind the second amendment continues to allow these machine guns that were designed for military use only to be freely purchased by anyone who wants one.”

Credit Katie Burns
Vigil attendees gather following the breaking of the fast.

Reverend Kari Nicewander of Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford said that even in times of hate, God’s love was apparent in the gathering of people in front of her.

“God’s love is alive in Orlando in the unending line of blood donors and people coming together to stand together in love and hope,” Nicewander said. “God’s love is alive in Muslim communities like this one sending love and support and compassion. God’s love is alive in LGBTQ communities choosing love and courage over fear.”

As the sun began to set, Mansoor invited those attending the vigil to join in breaking the fast that occurs at dusk during Ramadan. Members of the mosque passed around dates and bottles of water for those who participated. After a prayer, people bit into their dates while chatting quietly with others around them, as they slowly trickled out of the mosque. 

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