Carrying a banner that read, “Standing on the side of love,” Santa Barbara leaders from the Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, and Christian faiths led “Not In Our Name,” an interfaith peace walk and candlelight vigil for the victims of the San Bernardino shooting. The Monday night walk from the county courthouse to De la Guerra Plaza united nearly 200 interfaith community members who, like SBCC Admissions Advisor and Muslim Akil Hill, were there “to stand in peace.”
As the event began, organizer Imam Yama Niazi of the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara encouraged each religious group to branch out of its comfort zone. “I’m talking to the Muslims especially, don’t just walk with each other,” he said smiling. And so a multi-ethnic patchwork of residents young and old proceeded down East Anapuma and State Streets, discussing religious acceptance, the presidential election, and the Syrian refugee crisis. Filmmaker Sam Kadi, a Muslim who grew up in Aleppo, Syria before moving to the United States, was proud to join the diverse peace walk. “We’re all of the same country [America],” he said.
“Islam has never been a religion of hate and violence…Islam is a religion of peace,” said Niazi to the crowd at De la Guerra Plaza. Explaining “Daesh” — commonly referred to as ISIS — isn’t associated with the Muslim religion, he shared his frustration that Islam is so often “connected with violence and terrorism” in mainstream media. Niazi introduced the seven interfaith religious leaders who spoke after him.
Among the group of Rabbis, Reverends, and a Vedanta nun, Christian Pastor David Moore of the New Covenant Worship Center expressed African American solidarity with Muslim Americans. “We know what it feels like to feel the hate,” Moore said, “this country belongs to you as much as to anyone else.” Also in the audience was Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, who took the stage briefly to speak about her own multicultural background.