SEASIDE, Cal. — Jews and Christians and people of no faith gathered together outside of a mosque in Seaside on Friday to make sure Muslims inside felt safe while they prayed.
The interfaith gathering echoed a national day of reflection in New Zealand to mark a week since the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 people.
Rabbi Bruce Greenbaum of Congregation Beth Israel helped to organize the demonstration at the Islamic Society of Monterey County.
“We wanted to send out a very strong message that we support their presence in our community that following the tragedy, the horrific shooting in New Zealand, we don’t ever want them to be concerned that it could happen here,” said Greenbaum.
Dozens of interfaith leaders gathered outside the mosque ahead of the midday call to prayer. Many holding signs reading “We love Muslims we will keep watch while you pray.”
The Islamic Society of Monterey County has about 1,000 members and attendees say it’s a community that first brought a mosque to Monterey in 1959.
“We want to be neighbors, just because we might have religious or ideological differences doesn’t mean we can’t be neighbors in our community,” said community leader Brian Bajari.
Bajari attends All Things New Church in Monterey and has been a leader on the peninsula helping to bring groups of different faiths together.
The Islamic Society of Monterey County has long participated in the interfaith gatherings and on Friday mosque attendees were busy making their friends welcome.
“Everyone is hugging and shaking hands, the members of the Islamic center here are coming out with cookies and trying to take care of us,” said Mark Peake the senior pastor at First Presbyterian in Monterey.
Sadly the gathering was the second organized over the last year to show solidarity following a shooting targeting a specific religion. The last was a gathering at Congregation Beth Israel following a mass shooting in October at a Pittsburgh Pennsylvania synagogue that left 11 dead.
“Unfortunately this is the wrong reason to come together, we should come together for celebrations always but we want to send the message to our Muslim friends, who turned out at Congregation Beth Israel to support us, so we are here to support them,” said Greenbaum.