El Paso Baha’is help community heal in wake of mass shooting
Baha’is in El Paso, Texas, are part of a process of healing that has enveloped the city since a mass shooting Aug. 3 that killed 22 people and wounded 24.
Carmel Heydarian recited a prayer in Spanish on behalf of the Baha’i community at a service the day after the shooting, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of the Southwest. Her uncle Nosrat Heidarian also offered a Baha’i prayer in English.
She was amazed at the turnout of up to 5,000 people, in a show of unity dubbed “El Paso Strong.”
“The program was beautiful: music, readings from different religions, indigenous rituals, accounts of trauma, stories of heroism,” recalls Heydarian.
Not once did anyone express hatred toward the alleged perpetrator, she says. “Instead, there was forgiveness and love.”
Many such memorials took place around the city in the following weeks. Baha’is organized one of them during their regular visit to a city park, at which they usually share information about Baha’i-initiated activities of community building.
“On the Wednesday after the tragic event, there were hundreds of people at the park,” says Heydarian. “Even family members who lost loved ones were present.”
Gathering together a large number of park-goers, the Baha’is offered a prayer. And when photos of the event were passed around, she says, in the background was “a glimmering rainbow.”