Shepparton rallies around Muslim community

By Myles Peterson

All in Greater Shepparton are invited to gather at Shepparton’s Albanian Mosque on Acacia St on Friday following afternoon prayers.

The gathering is in response to the mass murders in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, Albanian Moslem Society of Shepparton president Enver Sabri said.

Fifty people were killed and another 50 injured when an Australian man allegedly attacked two mosques with multiple firearms. The atrocity was live-streamed across social media.

Religious leaders of multiple faiths and City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keeffe have been invited to take part and community members are welcome to attend.

‘‘Everyone is welcome,’’ Mr Sabri said.

Mosque member and Voices of Harmony spokesperson Cameron Albanoi said Friday’s attack, which took place just before afternoon prayers, had united the community against violence.

‘‘It is a tragic day for all humanity. It affects every single person, peaceful and progressive minded. It affects the very core of humanity,’’ he said.

‘‘No violence or form of terrorism justifies what happened.’’

Mr Albanoi thanked those who had rallied around the Muslim community in recent days.

‘‘To the broader community, I would like to thank them, they have been fantastic,’’ he said.

‘‘The Shepparton community has been great and very supportive, even I understand at the festival on Saturday night down by the lake. They were holding hands and the mayor made a great address to the community.’’

Cr O’Keeffe said it was a sad duty to speak on behalf of the Greater Shepparton community in the aftermath of the massacre, sending a message of support to her counterpart in Christchurch.

‘‘On behalf of the Greater Shepparton City Council and our local community we offer our sincere condolences to the Christchurch community and offer any support which we can provide at this very difficult time,’’ the statement read.

‘‘We are holding a minute’s silence at a festival opening tonight and will be supporting our multicultural community as much as possible in the coming days and further ahead.

‘‘Please know that we are here for your community and unite with you at this time.’’

Cr O’Keeffe said local reaction and support was a reflection of the success of Greater Shepparton’s ability to bring people of many races and religions together.

‘‘We have come together as one ... it’s an enormous event, a tragic event,’’ she said.

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said Shepparton could weather such a horrific event.

‘‘Shepparton has a very strong vibrant Muslim population. We are one of the most welcoming societies and we need to stand together,’’ he said.

‘‘I feel for the innocent victims and I feel for the families, for it to happen in New Zealand is quite surreal.’’

Shepparton is the most multicultural region in Australia and has the highest concentration of people of Islamic faith per capita, according to the 2016 census.

The Albanian Mosque is the oldest in the state, having first opened its doors in 1960.

Anyone wanting to show support for the local Muslim community can attend Albanian Islamic Centre of Shepparton on Friday, following afternoon prayers, which should finish by 2.10pm.