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Pacific University's Center for Peace and Spirituality and Muslim Student Association hosted the interfaith, community-wide vigil for the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.

PMG PHOTO: JANAE EASLON - Members of the Muslim Student Association spoke at the Christchurch shooting vigil on Monday, March 18 at Pacific University.
Pacific University students, staff and community members gathered Monday night, March 18, for a vigil in support of the Muslim community and the lives lost at last week's mass shooting in New Zealand.

Pacific University's Center for Peace and Spirituality and Muslim Student Association hosted the interfaith, community-wide vigil, drawing in about 50 people as the sun began to set.

"Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Pacific University community has gathered after a tragedy like this," said Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, director of Center for Peace and Spirituality. "It was just a year ago that we gathered after Parkland school shooting. We gathered as a community again after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting this fall. We felt it was important to gather once again to remember those who were lost in this most recent shooting in Christchurch in part because we have a growing Muslim population at Pacific University and if it impacts any person of faith in one country, it impacts others in the United States."

Currie continued, "I know for our students, our hearts are breaking for what has occurred. This is an opportunity to gather with other students and the community to talk about ways to prevent this kind of violence in the future."

On Friday, March 15, two consecutive shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand at Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre took place during Friday Prayer. At least 50 people were reported dead and another 50 injured.

A 28-year-old Australian man was arrested in connection with the attacks and charged on at least one count of murder.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday, March 18, gun reforms in the country are approaching in response to the mass shooting.

Students from the Muslim Student Association shared their stories and thoughts, as well as members from other faith groups on campus attended and spoke out in support.

PMG PHOTO: JANAE EASLON - Pacific University staff, students and community members gathered on Monday, March 18 in remembrance of lives lost in last week's Christchurch, New Zealand shootings. 
Pacific student and secretary of the MSA, Fatima, started by reading the names of the lives lost in Christchurch.

"We are scared, but one thing we are not, is surprised. This has been a long time coming," said Hanin Najjar, president of the Muslim Student Assocation. "I encourage all of you when you hear Islamophobic or xenophobic comments, in the news or from your friends, that you speak out against them. These are not words. These are bullets."

Members of Mothers Demand Action for Gun Sense in America also spoke out to share upcoming legislation in Salem dealing with gun-related topics and encouraged attendees to stay informed.

To close the vigil, attendees stood in a circle holding hands to take a moment of silence.

By Janae Easlon
Features Editor
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
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