Nashville’s public square was packed Sunday night with residents remembering those who died in the recent New Zealand mosque attacks.
Many attendees said they were happy about the turnout and felt the event was a show of religious unity: Between prayers, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus, among others, greeted each other, hugged and lit candles.
Zulfat Suara, chair of American Muslim Advisory Council, says the show of unity is comforting.
"The people of Nashville saying they do not stand for hate, they want to stand together, that means a lot to us," said Suara. "But there are a few people that still are in fear."
But some attendees, including Suara, also said they believe Tennessee still has work to do when it comes to promoting tolerance. Suara says there should be more education around Islam and encouraged attendees to visit a mosque or read a book about Islamophobia.
"A lot of politicians say things about Muslims, many of them don't know us and equate us to evil things without asking us," Suara said. "We have a stereotype of people lumping us together. This has to stop."
Jim Wohlgemuth, with the group Veterans for Peace, echoed that sentiment.
"I want to see a change of heart from the state General Assembly. Like, where were they here? Where were the state representatives here from the GOP?"
Only Democratic politicians were mentioned by speakers at the vigil, including Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman, Rep. Jim Cooper and Sen. Jeff Yarbro.
But Wohlgemuth said it’s a promising sign that so many different religious groups in the city can unify.
Another attendee, Judy Saks, says this togetherness among different religious groups has been growing over the last decade.
"We feel a very strong relationship — the Jewish community and the Muslim community with each other," said Saks, who is the former community relations director for the Jewish Federation of Nashville. "Issues of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia: they brought us together."
Saks says the Jewish community in Nashville also felt support last year after a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.