Metro

In the wake of New Zealand tragedy, Lexington holds interfaith vigil

Esma, who chose to give her first name only, held a candle near the 50 symbolic prayer rugs representing the victims of the mosque killings in New Zealand at an interfaith vigil in Lexington.
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Esma, who chose to give her first name only, held a candle near the 50 symbolic prayer rugs representing the victims of the mosque killings in New Zealand at an interfaith vigil in Lexington.

LEXINGTON — As the sun went down behind First Parish church Sunday, people of all faiths gathered on the historic Battle Green to remember the 50 people slain in the recent shooting massacre at two mosques in New Zealand.

Women wore hijabs, the traditional Muslim head covering, and some Jewish men wore a yarmulke. Others held rosary beads, a symbol of Catholic worship. Nearby, prayer rugs for each person killed in the mass shooting at the mosques were placed on grass still brown from winter.

Slowly, the names of each person killed on March 15 were read aloud, along with a short description of their lives and their loved ones left behind. Afterward, as the setting sun turned the sky pink, Imam Faisal Khan of the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland sang the call to prayer. Muslim men took off their shoes and knelt for their evening prayer.

Advertisement

It was a poignant moment during a candlelight vigil that drew hundreds in a show of solidarity with the victims in New Zealand and the local Muslim community.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“I feel like it’s a good way to make sure that this is remembered and it doesn’t fall to the wayside,” said Devesh Pathak, 17, a junior at Lexington High School, and a founder of “Lexington Says #Enough,” a group for gun control.

The organization formed last year after 17 students and staff were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. “Lexington Says #Enough” has since hosted half a dozen vigils for mass shooting victims, Pathak said.

Sunday’s gathering marked the first time the group has collaborated with the Lexington Interfaith Clergy Association.

Nila Karim (left) embraced longtime friend Fareena Sultan of Lexington during the vigil, called “Lexington stands with our Muslim neighbors and friends.”
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Nila Karim (left) embraced longtime friend Fareena Sultan of Lexington during the vigil, called “Lexington stands with our Muslim neighbors and friends.”

The Reverend Anne Mason, minister of First Parish church, said the anti-gun movement shares a “beautiful intersectional unity” with the clergy association’s commitment to peace.

Advertisement

“It has been an excruciatingly painful year with the number of mass shootings that have been happening,” said Mason, whose towering white church overlooks Battle Green.

During the hour-long vigil, faith leaders offered prayers for the victims and for a world free from gun violence.

The vigil marked the first time Muslim prayers were offered on Battle Green, where some of the first shots of the American Revolution were fired on April 19, 1775.

“In my view, this is very historic,” said Tahir Chaudhry, a former president of the Islamic Society of Boston/Wayland, who is also a member of the clergy association.

Chaudhry is hoping the vigil creates a sense of urgency to combat gun violence.

Advertisement

“Unity and love is great, but we need to be doing more, we need to be working on gun control and stopping the export of violent ideas,” Chaudhry said. “We are grieving, for sure, but we have grieved many times before… grieving is not enough.”

The Muslim population in Lexington is small, only about 150 families, and the town has no mosque.

Without their own house of worship, local Muslims often do not know how to express themselves to the community, said Amber Iqbal, an organizer of the vigil.

“Every time we have to go and pray we find a corner or a place far away,” said Iqbal, a mother of three. “To do this out in the open served as a way to educate people that our prayer is peaceful.”

The outreach from local Christian, Jewish, and other faith traditions can help educate people about their faith, she said.

“I like these kind of interfaith dialogues,” Iqbal said.

After the vigil was over, Mason invited attendees to First Church for “Chai, Samosas, and Conversations,” and to continue talking.

“I’m hoping that the town of Lexington sees Muslims as the people they are,” said Mason. “If the gunman in New Zealand had known Muslims as people, then he wouldn’t have been compelled to shoot them.”

Lisa Boehm, a member of Lexington Says #Enough, complimented him on the quiet beauty of his voice.

“The Quran is written in a way that is meant to be sung out loud,” he explained.

Tags and prayer rugs were used as symbols to honor the victims of the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooting.
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Tags and prayer rugs were used as symbols to honor the victims of the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooting.

Maddie Kilgannon can be reached at maddie.kilgannon@globe.com.