Santa Cruz residents display compassion at Islamic Center

Santa Cruz residents display compassion at Islamic Center

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Muslims on the Central Coast are still grieving following the deadly shootings in New Zealand. 

For many who attend the Islamic Center of Santa Cruz, the tragedy has been met with a number of residents showing solidarity. 

Steadily into Friday night, many passersby and drivers came by the Islamic Center with flowers and words of encouragement.

"I just think we have to be compassionate to others," said Lindsey Jesberg, a Santa Cruz resident who came by with her mom. "I just think it's so sad, I mean it's like... innocent lives and there's just no need for that kind of hate."

"I was up really late last night on social media with my friends when I saw it. And I think everyone's general reaction was we were all heartbroken," said Aisha Charvez, an attender of the Islamic Center of Santa Cruz. 

Worshippers at the center could not hold back tears during prayers on Friday. 

"We feel the pain, the pain of these families. I mean someone's father or mom or son went to the mosque for the prayer and they never came back home. It's a tragedy, and they're gone for life, so it's sad, it's very sad," said Houcine Ait Ahmed, a board member and treasurer of the Islamic Center of Santa Cruz. 

"Houses of worship should be the one place that you feel safe, that you know that you can go and pray and be close to your creator," said Charvez.

One message these residents are taking to heart: it is OK to grieve, to share in sorrow. But fear must not overtake their lives. 

"It's not fair, it's not beneficial, it's not constructive for anyone to live in fear," said Ait Ahmed. "Otherwise, if you live in fear, you live in despair."

Some say one of the best ways to fight  fear is to know that you are not alone. 

"If it was me and like any community that I was a part of that was being attacked, I just would want to know that other communities outside of my own care about me and think I belong too," said Jesberg. 

Ait Ahmed says he appreciates all the outpouring of support the Islamic Center is getting from the community. He says while the attack is tragic, he hopes it will generate more dialogue about the different faiths in our country. 

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