On Jan. 30, a vigil was held on the Alberta Legislature grounds for the victims of the deadly mosque shooting in Quebec City, in which six individuals were killed during evening prayers.
Hundreds of people attended the vigil to pay their respects for the victims of the shooting on Jan. 29, something Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as “a terrorist attack on Muslims.”
The vigil was organized by the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Among those in attendance was Fatima Dhooma, President of the Student Association at Keyano College in Fort McMurray. When news of the attack first emerged, she was highly distressed by what she was hearing.
“I know deep down inside that the Canadian values don’t reflect (the shooting),” said Dhooma. “I’m confident that moving forward as a society, (we) will hopefully combat this kind of behaviour, and be able to support people in every way.”
As candles lit up the darkness of the night and signs calling for peace and unity were hoisted about, people from across Edmonton and Alberta braved the cold weather as they stood together, listening to the prayers being recited and offering their condolences.
The large number of participants strengthened Dhooma’s feelings of belonging, what she described as a “sense of home,” even in the face of the terrorist act the night before.
“When I came into this group, I felt like they were my family. Being with people that I know support me, stand in solidarity with me, or share the same feelings and emotions as I do,” explained Dhooma.
“We won’t give in to hatred, lies, and intolerance”
-Alberta Premier Rachel Notley
Government officials and leaders from different communities came together to speak to the crowd, condemning the attack and calling for unity against violence and hate.
Faisal Khan Suri, President of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, said in his speech that Canadians “will not tolerate any acts of violence or hatred.”
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley echoed Suri’s statement, saying that the attack revealed to all Canadians the “extreme hatred that sometimes lives among us.” She continued on to say that, “we won’t give in to hatred, lies, and intolerance.”
She also assured the Muslim community that the provincial government “is with you, now and always.”
Also among those addressing the crowd was Rev. Paul Walfall, President of the United Church in Alberta and Northwest. Walfall offered his condolences to the Muslim community and called on everyone to stand unified against “ignorance.”
“Make no mistake my friends: an attack on one religion is an attack on all religions in this country,” said Walfall. In his eyes, “to get rid of ignorance … is to replace it with knowledge.”
When Walfall first heard of the shooting, he had trouble even processing the act.
“I was speechless. I could not believe that people in a place of prayer could be hunted down like that.”
He has noticed that the issue of religious intolerance has been slightly rising across Canada, and explained that there needs to be a shift away from a phenomenon he described as being “outraged to a question of trying to understand each other.”
“I believe that the basic is to understand,” explained Walfall. “With the understanding of what a religion is about, I speak from a position of knowledge, not from a position of ignorance.”