Galway Vigil for Christchurch Tragedy ‘gives hope’

On Thursday evening, the city of Galway was invited to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community.

Every attendee who entered the Maryam Mosque in Ballybrit, though they were few, was greeted by the warm and affectionate smile of Imam Ibrahim Noonan, who leads the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

After instructing the visitors to remove their shoes, he guided his guests through the simple and solemn main prayer room.

“We expected a very large group here tonight, but we are so grateful for those of you who have come to show your support.”

Other members of his community were alongside him expressing their gratitude for the visitors, including members of the Gardaí and the City Council, that had come forward to show unity with their neighbours.

The vigil was held to remember and reflect on the tragedy that took place in Christchurch, New Zealand last week and the 50 lives lost. The effects of the attack reach farther, and the emotional trauma of the survivors and their families will continue for a lifetime, said the Imam.

“One thing that moves me greatly and gives hope is the leadership of the Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern. She has shown exceptional leadership in every respect,” said Imam Noonan.

The attack in Christchurch has since spurred tangible change for its people, including a sweeping ban on assault rifles and military-style semi-automatic weapons.

After a period of silent prayer and meditation, the Imam introduced Darryl, a native New Zealander who now works in Galway as a teacher.

“That morning, my wife ran into the room saying ‘Turn on the news, turn on the news!’ This happened in my country,” said Daryll. “They were people who moved there for a better life or a better life for their families and this is how they get treated.”

His words mirrored the Imam, who expressed deep pain and sadness, but also hope.

“In the days after, I felt proud of my country for the way our leader and the people responded. People from all walks of life are holding vigils and showing their support all over the world,” said the New Zealander.

He paused for a moment, looking around at the group of multicultural faces listening to his words.

“I’ll say one last thing that my late grandmother used to tell me, especially when I became a teacher:

(in Maori) He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.”

Before inviting the group back inside for tea, the Imam gestured to the small but unified group of people gathered on the steps of a mosque in an Irish village.

“This,” he said, “This is how change begins.”

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