A group gathered outside City Hall in Victoria Friday to honour the victims and families of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Candlelight vigil held in Victoria to honour victims of New Zealand mosque shootings

Vigil was organized to stand against Islamophobia

Candles, flowers and a New Zealand flag lay on the ground in the middle of an intimate circle of people gathered outside city hall in Victoria Friday afternoon to honour the victims and families of the mosque shootings that occurred earlier that day in New Zealand.

Two mosques in Christchurch, full of worshippers attending Friday prayers, were the site of mass shootings that killed 49 people and sent another 48 to hospital to be treated for gunshot wounds with injuries ranging from minor to critical.

Shock rippled around the world.

At the vigil in Victoria, the crowd was diverse – Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, MLAs, city councillors, scholars, New Zealand ex-pats – with all holding space for the feelings of confusion, anger, fear and injustice that arise in times of senseless tragedy.

“We are all hurting as a country for our fellow New Zealanders who have been killed by this act of terrorism,” said New Zealand ex-pat Suzette Goldsworthy. “I served in the New Zealand military, my grandfather served and we fought for freedom for everyone. We are a peaceful nation, so for someone to take the liberty and do that to our country, it has just, as we say in New Zealand, gutted us.”

The vigil was organized to stand against Islamophobia, and white supremacy, while also remembering those who were murdered and showing support for their families and communities, said organizers.

RELATED: Mass shootings at New Zealand mosques kill 49; 1 man charged

“Words of solidarity are not enough. Let us demonstrate what it really means to stand against Islamophobia by implementing it in our politics – who you vote for and the people you see around you. If you hear people making comments, say something,” said Zainab bint Younus, a Muslim Canadian who grew up on Vancouver Island. “All it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to say nothing.”

Gatherers placed lit candles on the ground and left supportive notes.

“The hatred of one of us, is the hatred against all of us. The killing of one of us, is the killing of all of us,” said Moussa Magassa, who is an Islamophobia researcher at UVic. “It should not happen under our watch. We should not wait until it happens to gather here, we should start looking and seeing what is wrong in our community and start working on it and reporting on it. One injustice is too much.”

RELATED: Victoria-based New Zealanders in shock after terrorism kills 49

Muhammad Ghouri, social director of the Masjid-Al Iman mosque in Victoria extended an invitation for mosque tours.

“I would love to have anyone who wants to come inside the Masjid-Al to take a tour,” said Ghouri. “Thank you all very much for condemning this act of terrorism and being with us.”

RELATED: Facebook, other tech companies scramble to remove New Zealand shooting video

The public was invited into mosques around B.C. last month to take part in Open Mosque Day – a B.C.-wide initiative by the B.C. Muslim Association to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.

The Masjid-Al Iman mosque in Victoria had an estimated 1,000 people show up for the opportunity to learn more about Islam, take a tour of the mosque, receive a henna tattoo and try on a hijab.

More importantly, according to the mosque’s imam Ismail Mohamed Nur, it brought people in to have conversations and get to know members of the Muslim community – nearly 3,000 of which live in Greater Victoria.

RELATED: Quebec City Muslim worshippers condemn fatal New Zealand mosque attacks

Mohamed Nur notes that Victoria is not immune to racism and bigotry but believes that knowledge and understanding is the cure.

“I think the key is education. People, I believe, are racist because they don’t understand a different culture or different religion. That bigotry comes out of a place of fear and the best way to deal with fear is to educate. That’s what we are trying to do here,” said Mohamed Nur.

Hate crimes in Canada shot up by 47 per cent in 2017, according to Statistics Canada figures, the worst year since the federal government began tracking hate crime-related data in 2009.

The groups worst hit were Muslims, with a 207-per-cent increase.

“In a world with ever-growing stigma and confusion around Islam and Muslims, we want to open our doors, our minds and our hearts to everyone around us, irrespective of their background and build a stronger community,” said Mohamed Nur.


 

keri.coles@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A group gathered outside City Hall in Victoria Friday to honour the victims and families of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Keri Coles/News staff)

A group gathered outside City Hall in Victoria Friday to honour the victims and families of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Harseerat Banwait holds a candle at the vigil to honour the victims and families of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Keri Coles/News staff)

A group gathered outside City Hall in Victoria Friday to honour the victims and families of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Just Posted

Mental Health: Fractured services leave community to fill gaps

Greater Victoria service providers working together to help youth

Bag containing meat, sewing needles found by dog owner in Cordova Bay

Saanich police don’t believe it’s a trend

UVic creates emergency bursary for students facing hardships due to COVID-19

Students can apply by emailing the financial aid office

Colwood Spring Clean-Up postponed, branch drop-off continues

Strict measures in place for branch drop-off

Saanich teen earns $100,000 commerce scholarship to the University of Calgary

Matias Totz is graduating from St. Michaels University School

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

Mill’s president says extra cleaning in place and workers are social distancing

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Most Read