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Milwaukee Stands United Against Hate: Interfaith vigil mourns massacre at New Zealand mosques

“We pledge to stand in solidarity with one another, to serve our communities and to stand against any attempt to attack or harm the well-being of any community. We will not allow our spirits to be crushed or our commitment to be compromised.”

Faith and civic leaders joined with hundreds of members of the public on March 21 at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee in support of the local Muslim and worldwide communities.

The somber vigil came in response to the twin terror attacks in New Zealand by a white supremacist, who kiIIed 51 worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes joined other representatives from the Jewish, Christian, and Sikh religions in addressing the crowd gathered at the vigil. Congresswoman Gwen Moore offered consoling words, and shared a similar frustration with the rise of white nationalism and the Trump Administration unwillingness to address the problem:

“We are heartbroken and angered by the mass violence at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand that left 51 people dead and dozens injured. Here in the United States, we stand against hate in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters in New Zealand and the entire global community. Unfortunately, the hate-fueled violence in New Zealand by a white nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim individual isn’t an isolated occurrence. In the recent past, we have witnessed white nationalists marching through the streets of Charlottesville, North Carolina and attacking our safe houses of worship here in the United States, from the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue attack in 2018, the Sikh Gurdwara Temple in Oak Creek, in Wisconsin back in 2012, and the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. White nationalist groups, emboldened by an uptick in hostile political rhetoric coming from Republicans, are organizing around the country to terrorize Muslims, Jews and people of color. This is becoming a crisis we can’t turn a blind eye to. We must reject hate and intolerance directed against any religious, racial, ethnic or any group of people. We must not diminish the dangers of white nationalist violence here at home or around the world. Doing so will inadvertently enable them to continue terrorizing people around the world. When white nationalist ideas and conspiracy theories are voiced we must denounce them. All elected officials, individuals and organization must not allow these toxic views to be excused, advanced or spread. Words matter. Divisive and hateful language can become weaponized leading to acts of violence with unimaginable consequences that we have witnessed far too many times.”

These photos were taken during the event and highlight intimate moments from the vigil. Along with the companion audio segments and editorial feature, these images try to express the concern and conditions in Milwaukee, as the community suffers from the latest mass shooting and works to stand together against a rising tide of hate from white nationalists.

“We commit to celebrating our shared humanity, solidarity between racial, ethnic, religious, and other communities is what binds us together and inspires us to move forward toward a more inclusive and peaceful future. We pledge to maintain our houses of worship – all of them regardless of religious affiliation – as places of refuge, safety, and tranquility.”

“We pledge to help this community come together, united across varying backgrounds and political ideologies. We pledge to reject and confront hateful speech and political rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize, divide, and isolate our communities.”

“We pledge not to be passive, indifferent, or silent observers when we see or hear hate. We pledge not to be intimidated from speaking our for the rights of the powerless in our society, the oppressed and those who have been victimized by hate or violence.”

“We pledge to speak out in defense of our shared ideals and values and to speak truth to power and evil. The call in our faiths to “love thy neighbor” contains no limitations, boundary, or wall.”

“We commit to embracing the humanity of one another, despite any differences that may exist in our beliefs, views, traditions, or politics. Where we disagree, we pledge to uphold the principles of civil discourse and dialogue, devoid of hate speech and disparaging language.”

“We pledge that we will not allow xenophobia, racism, bigotry, islamophobia, anti-Semitism, or any other form of hate to cause us despair or hopelessness. We pledge to strengthen our resolve and our commitment to uphold what is right as we work to reinforce the diverse fabric of our community and country.”

“We pledge to vote and hold our elected officials accountable to the values we all share. We pledge to educate ourselves, our families, and our communities against all forms of ignorance and intolerance and to stand together, united for peace and justice.”

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