An interfaith service is scheduled to take place Sunday between members of a local Church of Latter-day Saints and Long Beach mosque, with the aim of spreading awareness, understanding and tolerance in response to the recent Orlando shooting that left 50 people dead, including the gunman.
Leaders from a local Mormon church, who reached out to officials with Masjid Al-Shareef of Long Beach, will share the art of fasting in their community with Muslim officials doing the same, said the mosque’s Imam Ameen Omar.
“Any time we can fellowship as one humanity, it's encouraged,” Omar said. He said they don’t plan on bringing up the Orlando shooting, which took place at a gay bar on Sunday, June 12.
“It’s a sad situation when any tragic incident happens in the society, in our community, in the world,” Omar said of the shooting. “This was a lone ranger, for lack of better expression [and] to associate religion because of name, I think is media’s incorrectness. It was a personal vendetta, for lack of a better expression, that Mr. Mateen took upon himself to do that, not representative of the religion of peace—that was not what he was representing. The religion of peace does not condone any harmful retaliation.”
The service will be held Sunday, June 26 at the mosque, located at 2104 Orange Avenue, Long Beach, at 7:30PM. Omar estimates about 50 Mormon families and 50 members of the mosque will attend.
“Getting to know each other, getting acquainted with each other, it helps us to dispel and/or to understand the different shades of meanings of words and how people reflect them in their lives,” Omar said.
The imam said the mosque has not seen any backlash since the shooting and has only beefed up “in-house” security due to recent vehicle break-ins, which he speculates may be based on hate crime but has not been able to prove. He said mosque officials are in constant communication with the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD)—which reached out to them in the days after the incident—to help build relationships and a sense of understanding.
“I think that they are doing an awesome job, as it relates to renewing relationships and outreach to our community,” Omar said of the LBPD.
This interfaith service is not the first to spring up in Long Beach in response to the Orlando shooting.
Last Thursday, Temple Israel reached out to LGBTQ Center Long Beach and representatives from Christian and Muslim faiths to speak at the interfaith service in addition to the temple’s rabbi, said the center’s executive director Porter Gilberg.
During that service, Gilberg spoke of the shooting and acknowledged the shooter as a victim in his own right.
“In a nation that is honestly debating whether to ban Muslims from entering this country, in a nation that uses oppression of LGBTQ people as a wedge issue to turn out voters and garner political support, in a nation that uses immigrants to incite fear and mistrust in order to drive a wedge between poor, struggling and marginalized communities, I will acknowledge that this climate contributed to the individual emotional decimation and eventual violence committed against LGBTQ people on [June 12],” Gilberg told the crowd last week.
Since the shooting, local political leaders have spoken out in favor of gun reform laws, including this week during which Democratic members of the House of Representatives conducted a sit-in to demand that Speaker Paul Ryan allow a vote on a bill that could possibly allow for the blockage of gun sales to people on the national no-fly list.