In response to recent shootings described as racially motivated hate crimes in Buffalo and Laguna Woods, several local churches and organizations have invited the community to an interfaith prayer vigil Sunday night at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Valencia.
Members of the Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Congregation Beth Shalom, NAACP Santa Clarita, Higher Vision Church and the Islamic Center of Santa Clarita Valley together are inviting the community to the “Interfaith Vigil of Prayer and Lament for a Hurting World: Grieving Gun Violence, Racism, and Hate,” starting 7 p.m. at the church, located at 24901 Orchard Village Road.
Leaders of the organizations said in a prepared statement that the idea came together as they were discussing the shooting Saturday in Buffalo in which 10 people were killed and three others wounded when a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood. The attack has been described as racially motivated, as was another attack Sunday that killed one person at a church in Laguna Woods.
“Santa Claritans share the same despair and concern that people throughout the United States have expressed,” said the statement issued jointly by the organizers.
“This event quickly materialized as we contacted each other and discussed the Santa Clarita community’s need to heal and move forward after another senseless killing born of racism and hate,” said Jeffrey Thompson, member of the city of Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable. “It is important we learn to celebrate our differences rather (than) give way to those preaching mistrust, division and fear.”
In the news release, leaders of the faith-based organizations also expressed their sentiments about the need for the event:
The Rev. Christopher Montella of St. Stephen’s said: “People are hurting and we must take a moment as a community to grieve those who lost their lives, share our sadness and then cast our eyes and our efforts toward the future we want to see so that together we can bring about an end to racism, violence and hate in all its forms.”
“We will not be silent or deterred in light of recent events, we respond with solidarity,” said Rabbi Jay Siegel. “We will not be passive in the face of hate and violence. We will actively find ways to increase love and kindness.”
“The Muslim community of Santa Clarita stands united with all people of conscience against bigotry, violence and prejudice. Hate has no place in our society,” said Omaran Abdeen, imam at the Islamic Center of Santa Clarita Valley. “In our blessed tradition, the Holy Quran says: O people! We created you from a male and a female, and made you races and tribes so that you may know one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is most knowledgeable, all-knowing.”
Due to rising concerns about COVID-19, masks are strongly recommended for attendees at the event. The vigil is planned to be livestreamed and available at st-stephens.org or directly on Facebook: @StStephensSCV.