Dozens gather in Milford to pray for Turkey, Syria earthquake victims

MILFORD — People of multiple faiths gathered Friday at Milford's City Hall to pray for those affected by the recent earthquakes that devastated parts of Turkey and Syria.

The earthquakes in Feb. 6 and Feb, 21, are estimated to have killed more than 30,000 people and left many more injured or homeless.

"In the wake of the massive earthquake that killed thousands, injured thousands and left many without a home in winter, our community is coming together for the victims of the earthquakes through this vigil," said Omer Kizilcik, outreach director for Wellspring Community Center.

Kizilcik said Connecticut has the second most Turkish population, the first being New Jersey.

"We came together today to honor the victims killed in Turkey and Syria and stand in solidarity with the families affected," he said. "We have been feeling this immense amount of grief, and to overcome something as surreal and catastrophic as this was, you have to have a community to support you."

He thanked those who are not of Turkish or Syrian descent for their show of unity.

"Your presence here means a lot to us, your Turkish American friends, your neighbors and fellow man," he said.

Ismail Yilmaz, president of the Wellspring Community Center, said after the earthquakes, the center started working with the local community in Orange, Milford and West Haven to collect many items to support the efforts in Turkey.

"We collected shoes, warm clothing, flashlights, tents and diapers," he said. "We worked with the Turkish embassy in Boston to send the items."

Wellspring Community Center is partnering up with Embrace Relief, a non-profit organization collaborating with volunteers to deliver humanitarian aid and disaster relief to vulnerable communities around the world to raise funds for those affected by the earthquake.

The goal is nearly complete to reach $1.5 million to help support the rebuilding efforts of the people of southern Turkey, Yilmaz said.

During the vigil, interfaith leaders led the gathering in prayers. Leaders included Mustafa Gul Er, Wellspring Community Center; Endrit Himaj, Albanian American Muslim Community of Waterbury; the Rev. Curran Bishop, Christ Presbyterian Church of Milford; Thomas Dombrowski, Three Angels Seventh-day Adventist Church of Newington; and Rev. Ashley Grand, First United Church of Christ.

State Rep. Kathy Kennedy and state Sen. James Maroney, both of Milford. also attended.

"Tragedies like this show that we need to come together. We shouldn't wait for tragedy for that to happen," said Kennedy. "We need to spread love and kindness."

Maroney thanked the organizers for their compassion toward those affected by the natural disaster.

"When we gather together, we can lessen the burden on each other," Maroney said.