Kiwis and Muslims from Portland area come together

Muslims and New Zealanders get together Thursday night in Tigard. (KATU Photo)

The shootings in Christchurch have reverberated across the world. But the tragedy has been especially painful for two groups of people; Muslims and New Zealanders.

"It tore up my heart," said Susanne Melton, a native Kiwi (as New Zealanders are commonly known) who has lived in Oregon since she was a teenager. "I went to work and I just sat at my desk at work and couldn't think of anything else."

Melton decided to reach out to the Muslim Educational Trust in Tigard.

"I just burst into tears and said, we need to get together," when she reached someone on the phone. "I don't know what we need to do, but we need to meet and share our love and support for each other."

Dozens gathered for that meeting Thursday night in Tigard. It was a chance for people of all faiths and communities to talk and simply get to know each other.

"I wanted the Muslim community to understand that, as a Kiwi, this was a violation against us as well," said Sandi Reily, who emigrated from New Zealand four years ago. "We wanted to be here to support their community."

Melton says a local meet-up group of people with ties to New Zealand and Australia has about 300 members.

Wajdi Said, president of the Muslim Educational Trust welcomed the chance to get together.

"It's an overwhelming experience," he said. "Unfortunately, we come together when there is a challenge or tragedy. We need to do this more often."

The native Kiwis at Thursday night's gathering made sure to tell everyone else that everyone there can be considered a New Zealander. In return, Said said everyone was welcome at the mosque.

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