Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Gun Violence Victims
June 15, 2022

Remarks by Aneelah Afzali, FAN Board Member and
Executive Director, American Muslim Empowerment Network

In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.

Good evening sisters and brothers, family and friends. My name is Aneelah Afzali, and I’m with the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, the Faith Action Network, and the Interfaith Advisory Council for Everytown for Gun Safety.

Safety from gun violence is a faith value, and every town deserves such safety! Tonight we remember those in towns deprived of such safety. Uvalde, Buffalo – and the roughly 270 other places where mass shootings have occurred THIS YEAR ALONE in our country, according to the Gun Violence archive. So many precious lives lost. So unnecessary.

Like other faith traditions, the sanctity of life is paramount in Islam. The Holy Quran teaches: “whoever kills one person, it is as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves one life, it is as if they saved all of humanity.”

How much humanity have we lost through the killing of all the victims of gun violence? And by coming together and taking action, how many lives can we save? How much can we restore OUR humanity?

As an American Muslim, a person of faith, I believe in the power and importance of prayer. Muslims are even commanded to pray 5 times a day! But I am sick and tired of those who abuse “thoughts and prayers” as a way to avoid real action we can take to prevent violence!

Our faith traditions teach that faith or prayer without action or deeds is empty, dead. And this emptiness has paralyzed our country. But the victims of gun violence deserve more. We ALL deserve better. This should not be a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, issue – it’s a human issue.

And we need action, not hollow “thoughts and prayers,” which have left us in a horrifying and heartbreaking cycle that spares no one, not even elder nor child. Enough is enough.

As people of faith, let us unite in prayer AND action. Let us pray with our voices — AND our hands, and our feet, through our phone calls, petitions, marches, and demands for real change!

God Almighty, we pray for peace and patience for those who lost loved ones. Safety and protection for all of us, in every town. Guidance and courage for our nation’s leaders to FINALLY enact common-sense gun laws to protect us all. We pray asking You to turn the loss of life into love and light; our heartbreak into hope and healing; and our aching into action and advocacy. And may our next gathering be a celebration of life, and not any more loss. Amen.