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Welcoming rally supports local Muslim community

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- People in South Bend came together as a hedge of protection for the Muslim community Friday, just one week after mass shootings in New Zealand mosques killed dozens.

 “People deserve to pray in peace and to worship as they see fit and not be afraid,” said Tonna Robinson, one of the organizers of the welcoming rally held on Friday.

She wanted to plan the rally after hearing there was a drop in prayer attendance last Friday because people were afraid after the mass shootings in New Zealand.

Several community members stood outside the entrance to the Islamic Society of Michiana to welcome those coming to pray, and let them know they have friends watching out for them.

“The city of South Bend stands with them and we are all out here and they can pray in peace,” said Robinson. “They don’t have to be afraid.”

Multiple people held signs saying “Pray in Peace” and “We Love You.”

“Our hope has been renewed and restored in the innate goodness of human beings,” said Rashied Omar, Imam at the Islamic Society of Michiana. “We’ve just been terribly moved. As you see today I mean people have come out to welcome us and to stand watch outside.”

Those who stood watch also said they were standing against hate.

“Our community is an open and good community,” said Rita Kopczynski, who attended the rally. “We just don’t tolerate these kinds of things that are happening.”

The rally helped create a ray of hope during a difficult time for the mourning Muslim community.

“It’s been a very intense and emotional week for us,” said Omar. “But the outpouring of solidarity, empathy and support from our neighbors in S­­outh bend and Michiana community has just been awesome and inspiring.”

Organizers say they plan to have another similar rally next Friday at 1 p.m. outside of the Islamic Society of Michiana and encourage anyone interested to join.

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