Standing before a crowd of more than 200 people inside the Anjuman-e-Ezzi Masjid, 13 year old Amir Dohadwala shares his thoughts, and quotes pieces of the Holy Quran, before effortlessly reciting the words of Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness,’ the Reading teen tells the group. ‘Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’
The group gathered at the masjid on Sunday night to express solidarity and support for the Muslim community following the death of 50 people gunned down at two mosques in New Zealand’s city of Christchurch on March 15. Similar vigils have been happening across the country.
‘Thank you,’ Amir told the crowd in conclusion of his speech.
This event is uplifting and has brought all of us together with a hope of a better world.’
The event, sponsored by the Billerica Interfaith Association, included words of love and support from all faiths. ‘It is wonderful to gather here as neighbors, to gather here in love and to show support for one another,’ said Reverend Katherine Adams, of First Congregational Church in Billerica.
After addressing the crowd, Rabbi Shoshana Perry, of Congregation Shalom in Chelmsford, handed a pile of letters, written by the children of her congregation, to a young boy to share with other children of the Billerica masjid.
‘We care about you and want you to grow up in a nation that respects you and loves you and celebrates who you are,’ Perry said.
‘Know that we stand with you in love.’
Before attendees gathered inside the masjid, the massive group stood outside the place of worship, sharing flames to light the candles they held.
‘We’re here to share the joy of worshipping freely,’ said Jim Curley, a member of the First Parish Unitarian Church of Chelmsford. ‘We’re here to support our brothers.’
Billerica resident Zahir Adil, a member of the Board of the Islamic Counsel of New England, pointed out he’s attended a few of the many vigils that have popped up in communities across Massachusetts.
‘It’s been happening time and time again,’ Adil said about the tragedy in New Zealand. ‘Whether it happens at the Tree of Life synagogue, whether it happens at the Pulse nightclub, whether it happens in Quebec City or it happens in Christchurch. This is something I’ve been afraid of.’
‘Any shooting like this in any place of worship-whether it be a synagogue, a church, a temple-it is just sad because the purpose of a person being there is to be safe and to worship,’ added Fatema Esmail, a member of the Boston Dawoodi Bohra Community, which includes the Anjuman-e-Ezzi Masjid.
Despite the sadness existing due to the tragedy in New Zealand, for one night in Billerica, love shined through. ‘I’m very grateful to be a part of this community,’ Esmail said. ‘I’m touched by the show of support.’