A Barnstaple woman who now lives in New Zealand has helped inspire a nationwide show of unity with the Muslim community following the devastating Christchurch massacre.
Stacy Silich, 40, who lives in the town with her husband Jay and their children Noah and Paige, was among those who watched the news in horrified disbelief as a gunman killed 50 people and injured 50 more in attacks on two local mosques.
When the community liaison and support worker heard a Muslim friend was too scared to leave the house because she felt her hijab headscarf made her a target, Stacy decided to wear one herself to show solidarity.
The movement spread across New Zealand and on Friday, March 22, ladies around the country wore head scarves in support of their Muslim sisters.
Stacy is a former Park School student, whose maiden name was Stacy Cooper and who still has all her family in Barnstaple.
She told the Gazette: “It was never intended to become a ‘thing’, it was just something I felt I could do to show my friend that I wanted to stand alongside her.
“That Friday morning at school was a beautiful sight. Our Muslim mum who was afraid on Monday returned to school with her daughters. We hugged, we stood and we were one. The Muslim families are overwhelmed by the act of solidarity.”
When the gunman attacked on March 15, Stacy and her family anxiously waited to hear about Muslim families they knew.
She said: “Last year my church sponsored three refugee families over here. Two of those were Muslim.
“Unfortunately one of those families lost their father and a son in the shooting and had another son injured. The dad of the other family was shot and is still in hospital recovering.
“The outpouring of love and support for these, and all, of our Muslim community has been above and beyond - but it still hurts.”
On Friday (March 29) Stacy and her son joined 25,000 people for a remembrance service at Hagley Park for the victims of the country’s worst terrorist attack.
It was known as Ko Tātou, Tātou - We Are One and it took four-and-a-half minutes to read out the names of the victims.
Stacy, who attended Grosvenor Church in Barnstaple, added: “A phrase I have learned the past couple of weeks, which is being used frequently here now is ‘as-salamu alaykum’, peace be with you.
“This is how many people are choosing to greet each other and our prayer not just for our city, but for our world.”
An Australian man, 28, has so far been charged with one murder and is expected to face further charges.