SAN LORENZO — About 100 people gathered Thursday night in San Lorenzo to remember a ministry student who was shot and killed early Saturday morning in Berkeley. Isamaeli Mata’afa’s friends called him Ish or Eli.
Pastor Ulysses Ve’e of the Samoan Congregational Christian Church in San Lorenzo led the candlelight vigil. Ve’e has known Mata’afa since he was in elementary school and was the one who encouraged him to follow his faith.
“I was real close with him. He was an assistant pastor to me and he was a director for our youth,” Ve’e said.
Mata’afa was a divinity student at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.
According to Berkeley police, Mata’afa was shot and killed on Telegraph Avenue early Saturday morning after getting into some kind of fight. Police have not released any other information about the circumstances surrounding the incident and have not named any suspects.
“There’s always a gun control issue. These things that we all face. It’s nothing new. I’ll let politicians or whatever, they can deal with that. It’s what we can learn from it. How we can move forward from it,” We told KPIX.
Mata’afa’s father fought back tears as he spoke about Eli.
“I miss my son,” he said, as he addressed the crowd gathered on the church lawn.
According to his faith family, the only way forward is forgiveness — forgiving those who killed Eli Mata’afa.
“This is a test of your faith and, when you encounter tragedy such as this, this is a test and time when you forgive,” says Ve’e.
Those who gathered Thursday night said one of the ways they want to keep Mata’afa’s memory alive is by working to end gun violence through community outreach.