Trinity United Church held the prayer vigil on Feb. 2, inviting one and all to join them to light candles, to pray, and to hear from Fauzia Mazhar.
Rev. Sue Campbell extended the invitation to Mazhar, a member of the region’s Muslim community as well as the co-founder of the Coalition of Muslim Women of KW and the Coordinator of the Family Centre in Kitchener. Born and raised in Pakistan, she and her husband moved to Canada in 2010 in search of a better life.
Mazhar read the shooting victims’ names aloud; Azzedine Soufiane, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Abdelkrim Hassane, Mamadou Tanou Barry and Ibrahima Barry, before providing a moment of prayer for them and their families.
They also prayed for the shooter and anyone else in the same state of mind as the shooter, as well as the five others who were critically injured in the attack on Jan. 29.
“For me personally, it is also a moment of really shock and disbelief and everything that you can think about. First of all, yes we know that we don’t live in a perfect world but you don’t really think that something like this is ever going to happen. In a thousand years I didn’t think that it would happen in Canada,” Mazhar said.
She said it just shows it doesn’t matter the work that you have done, or how strong the foundations are, no country, community, or society is immune to hate.
“We need to work hard and we need to make sure we do not delegitimize voices, we hear people out and we try to understand, even if we don’t agree with what they’re saying, we try to understand,” Mazhar said.She noted it’s important to remember we all have a stake in it, whether we know someone who is part of the Muslim community or not.
“Everyone has been impacted by this senseless act of violence in one way or the other,” Mazhar said.
They proceeded to light six candles, one for each of the victims, and then they each lit a candle from those candles to hold while they reflected on how this had affected them.
Trinity also is now promoting inclusivity through the addition of a welcoming sign written in English, French, and Arabic. The church has more signs for those who want one, as evidenced by one at the front of Elmira District Secondary School.
The signs were created by Pastor Matthew Bucher from Immanuel Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virgina. The sign has since been recreated and reproduced for anyone to plant on their lawn.
The signs read “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbour.”
Campbell says organizing the vigil was important for her to break down the us-them barrier and to recognize we are all Canadians.
One member of the congregation asked her why they needed to hold the vigil because shouldn’t people know that they love them?
“I said it’s like when you’re married, yes you’ve made a vow to love this person forever, but you need a visible way to show it, and you still have to say I love you even though, yes you’re married and you love the person,” Campbell explained.
In attendance for the vigil was the minister for Rockwood United Church and Stone United Church outside of Guelph, and congregation members from Hawkesville Mennonite Church, Floradale Mennonite Church, Alma United Church and of course Trinity.
“For me it was a very tangible, concrete way of building community together across denominational lines and people who aren’t part of a church at all. It was for everybody together, all of us to stand together as Canadians to send a message of inclusiveness and welcoming of diversity to extend the hand of friendship and welcome.”