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A week on, vigil held for Christchurch victims in Prince Edward Island

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CHARLOTTETOWN — More than a week after the deadly shooting rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, a vigil was held at the Charlottetown cenotaph in Prince Edward Island on Saturday to show solidarity with the victims.

Sobia Ali-Faisal, a faculty member at the University of Prince Edward Island’s psychology department, said while the temperature was cold the atmosphere at the vigil was warm.

“It was sombre, but the signs that people had were very, very supportive,” she said, adding that the hundreds of people who attended “really wanted to be there.”

Ali-Faisal said it was particularly heartening to see support from outside the Muslim community.

“It’s soothing because you can feel quite vulnerable after something like this happens,” she said.

“It could happen here. You could be a target, and you just kind of become cautious and take a lot more precautions. So it’s nice when you see people come out and support you. It makes you feel safer.”

Vigils can also be a starting point for challenging hate by allowing people of different faiths to connect, she added, but said it’s important to keep up the momentum they create.

Shaukat Khan, the president of the Pakistan Canada Association in Vancouver, said it’s “amazing” to see Canadians standing with the Muslim community, adding that Canadians always come together in hard times and these vigils show that.

There are a number of groups in British Columbia and other parts of the country meeting up and thinking of ways to sustain the dialogue following the attacks, he said.

The gunman killed a total of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, in the nation’s worst terrorist attack.

Australian national Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder in the attacks and is scheduled to make his next court appearance on April 5.

Alhadi Abusneena, the president of the Muslim Society of Prince Edward Island who was also at the Charlottetown vigil, echoed Ali-Faisal’s words.

The people of Charlottetown and P.E.I. support the Muslim community and “we stand as one family,” he said.

“I see in their eyes, I see the love and compassion,” he said.

Such vigils show that in spite of the sorrow, people choose love over hatred, he said.

Although the vigil on Saturday took place more than a week after the shooting, Abusneena said the timing is irrelevant since the victims’ families have to live with a lifetime of pain.

—By Hina Alam in Vancouver, with files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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