ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Anchorage joined in worldwide mourning of the victims of the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand at the Islamic Community Center on Saturday.
Hundreds of residents from multiple religious affiliations acknowledged and shared in each other's grief over the tragedy. The overarching message: No matter what religion one adheres to, all of humanity is impacted by the loss of 50 innocent lives to gun violence.
Gregory Jones of the Interfaith Council of Anchorage, a collective group embracing all religious philosophies that sponsored the vigil, addressed the crowded room.
“We are gathered here to mourn the tragedy which happened in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where Muslims gathered to worship Ala,” Jones said. "And we are gathered in solidarity to promote peace."
In a world where gun violence seems to have a constant presence, Alaskans on Saturday reached out across thousands of miles. Paul Boling, minister at First Christian Church, said it's important to not be silent during global tragedies.
“We are all connected -- so when one deals with atrocities like this, all of us do,” Boling said. "We need to not be silent, and we have to stand up and say this is not right, and we’re not going to tolerate it. Especially here in Anchorage, but we won’t tolerate it in our nation and in our world."
The ceremony included a special visit from First Lady of Anchorage, Dr. Mara Kimmel. She said despite feeling profound sorrow for the loss of life, Saturday's vigil is a compliment to the accepting religious culture of the Interfaith Council of Anchorage.
“We come together as a community, and seeing all of you here just inspires so much pride and so much hope,” Kimmel said.
Gregory Jones, a member of the Interfaith Council of Anchorage who is helping to organize the vigil, says everyone is welcome, regardless of faith.
"People of faith, whatever your faith is, if you understand humanity and the oneness of humanity, and you see human suffering, wherever it is, you have to feel empathy," Jones said.
He says the vigil sends a message that tragic events like Friday’s mass shooting in New Zealand are felt on a human level across the world.
"The Anchorage community is going to show that that type of extremism and hatred, intolerance, bigotry, is not accepted here in Anchorage, Alaska," Jones said.
The vigil began at 7 p.m. at the Islamic Community Center, located at 8005 Spring Street in Anchorage.