CAIRO - Watching the horrifying news about the death of 20 school children in a shooting rampage, Huma Yasin, a Connecticut Muslim mother, decided to step in and invite religious leaders in her community to solace the victims' families in an interfaith vigil.
"As a mother, I was just thinking about how horrible it would be going through that," Yasin told Star Telegram.
"And then I was thinking there were so many people in this nation who, regardless of ethnic heritage or religious affiliation, we were all hurting.
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"All those children had become emblematic of someone we know, someone we love, and we needed to come together, to grieve together, she added.
Earlier in December, at least 26 people, including 20 children aged 5 to 10 years old, were killed when a heavily-armed gunman stormed into their school in Newtown, Connecticut, two weeks ago.
The gunman killed his mother at home and then went to the school, killing 20 students at a classroom, before shooting five other adults and killing himself.
Seeking to bring a comfort to a shocked society, Yasin approached her friend Alia Salem, who works with the Islamic Speakers Bureau DFW and also is on the Fort Worth Police Department's citizens peer committee for the Middle Eastern and Greater Middle East Community.
Salem, a Fort Worth native whose father was from Egypt, also had deep feelings about mass shootings.
She recalled last week how a classmate in her high school theater class, Justin Stegner Ray, was among seven people killed in the September 1999 mass shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church.
"When you see the horror of Newtown, it dredges up feelings of insecurity," she said, "and you think about the people from Wedgwood.
"Huma said, 'Let's do something,' and I said, 'Yes.' But then I said, 'It should be interfaith.' My response was to act in a societal way."
Being part of the department's Multicultural Committee, created by Police Chief Jeff Halstead, Salem was keen on inviting representatives of other faiths in an interfaith vigil.
Under the title Candles for Connecticut, the vigil was held last Dec. 20 at First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth.
Uniting Oklahoma faiths, the vigil was a perfect opportunity to enhance interfaith relations.
"In 24 years of being police officer, I have not experienced anything this powerful," Halstead said after the event.
"And the leaders put this together in just six days."
Speakers included Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Imam Moujahed Bakash of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County, Rabbi Andrew Bloom and the Rev. Al Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church.
At the service, Salem was master of ceremonies, and Yasin read each victim's name as candles were lighted for them by police Cpl. Tracey Knight, who heads the Multicultural Committee, and area children. Photos of the Newtown children flashed across a screen.
"I have a 4-year-old daughter, so it was painful to look at those pictures," Knight said.
"So this brought the community together in a way that was meaningful."
Meeting representatives from other faiths, Salem was moved by the perfect atmosphere.
"I mean, how perfect was that?" Salem said.
"If Chief Halstead had not created the citizen peer committees, this would not have come together."
"It showed that we can do interfaith with no shred of compromising our beliefs," she said.
"I respect '100 percent people' who are true to what they believe in, and that's up to each person to decide."
"Every faith group I have learned about has a huge empathy for finding and helping the less fortunate," she said.
"This was a wonderful showing of interfaith, and I hope, eventually, it will have a lasting impact for something much larger."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net