SHAFAQNA -Â In a prayer circle with members of various faiths, Lana Lockhart broke into tears as she took her turn to speak Sunday afternoon on Legislative Plaza.
â€œAt the beginning of Ramadan it happened in Charleston, at the end of Ramadan, it happened in Chattanooga,â€ she said. â€œThis violence has to stop.â€
Lockhart was referring to the June 17 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, S.C., where law enforcement officials say Dylann Roof allegedly shot and killed nine church members, and to Thursdayâ€™s fatal shooting of four Marines and a U.S. Navy officer in Chattanooga by gunman Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
Although the prayer vigil on the plaza Sunday was organized my members of the local Muslim community in concert with a similar vigil scheduled at the same time in Knoxville, the 25 or so people who gathered Sunday were of different faiths, and Lockartâ€™s words echoed the shared sentiment by many that wanton violence must stop.
â€œWe must come together, as members of all faiths and fight against this sort of thing,â€ said Lockhart, who converted to Islam 26 years ago. â€œFor me, this is more about guns than it is religion.â€
Drost Koyoke, one of the local organizers, said the vigil originated on social media and was equally supported by several local Muslim community leaders.
â€œToday we were supposed to have a youth carnival to celebrate the end of Ramadan,â€ she said, referring to the month of fasting observed by followers of Islam worldwide. â€œBut we are holding this vigil instead of that. We want to come together with all people and pray for peace.â€
Koyoke said that as a Muslim she could fear that people are connecting Abdulazeezâ€™s actions to Muslims everywhere, but that she felt it was necessary to come out and offer condolences and prayer for the victimsâ€™ families.
Twenty-five-year-old Faran Saeed, who grew up in Nashville and worshiped at the Islamic Center of Nashville, said he wanted to come out to represent the younger local Muslim community.
â€œI am a Muslim, and this does not represent our religion,â€ he said. â€œWe are coming together as a community to pay our respects. This was a tragic event, a heinous crime.â€