About 50 Kenosha residents stood together last Thursday to remember 50 Muslims shot to death in Christchurch, New Zealand six days before. It was one of two local events to honor the victims of a white supremacist.
The first was held on the lawn of St. Matthews Episcopal Church. The second was the following day at the American Albanian Islamic Center.
The church bells tolled 50 times during the vigil to mark each man, woman and child killed in the two attacks. St. Matthews has used the bell several times in recent years during vigils to mark other mass shootings.
As these Kenosha residents gathered to oppose white supremacist hate, hundreds of similar gatherings took place around the world.
As Fatih Harpci, a Carthage College religion professor, invoked spiritual comfort in Arabic using verses from the Quran, some wiped away tears. Other prayers were offered during the service.
A 28-year-old Australian man, described in international media reports as a white supremacist and member of the “alt-right,” has been arrested and charged with the murders. Leaders of New Zealand and Australia condemned the killings as acts of terrorism and violence. The prime minister of New Zealand promised new legislation on gun laws.
When the vigil ended, Harpci told the gathering that this rampage is not just a Muslim tragedy.
“That should be seen as a human tragedy that affects all of us,” he said. “This target may be the Muslims in this incident. But, in fact, the target was anyone and everyone who thinks that diversity is our strength. So it was targeted at diversity. Not just Muslims.”
He said the New Zealand shootings are ultimately connected to others, including the Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek, and the shootings at a Pittsburgh synagogue and an African-American church in Charleston.
“As you can see,” Harpci said, “these are all places of worship of different religious traditions. The hate is hate, regardless of the background of the perpetrators. It has the same DNA.”
President Trump called the killings horrible and said such white supremacist actions are the work of a few and not of a movement. But these events are not just a few. The philosophy is of many.
As Kenosha residents stood in the dark evening at St. Matthews denouncing this act as a hate-filled incident against a belief system that demonizes groups of people, so, too, should our president stand up strongly against it and call it what it is: Terrorism.