Last Monday, mourners and allies of all ethnicities, religions and ages gathered together to pay their respects and share their feelings of the Quebec mosque shooting that hit too close to home.
“We hear about these things almost every week, but this one’s different because it’s close,” said Vivien Zelazny, campus minister at a vigil held in the Holy Cross House chapel.
Moments of somber silence and solitude underlined the heartfelt prayers, reflections and rallying calls that broke through the on-campus vigil. Off campus, members of the Fredericton community participated in a similar vigil at city hall, their grieving and resilient voices ringing out in the square.
On Jan. 29, a man broke into the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec (Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec) in the suburb of Ste. Foy and started shooting. Out of over 40 Muslims praying six were killed, eight injured and 12 retained minor injuries.
The victims were fathers, businessmen and professors.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, upon hearing of the situation, immediately called this violence, “a terrorist attack on Muslims.” Across Canada and the world, people mourned yet another act of prejudice upon the Muslim community.
Raised just three hours away from where the shooting took place, STU student Emily Beaulieu feels “incredibly bad.”
“I feel the need to apologize for the act of another French[-Canadian] individual,” she said.
Others are equally as horrified of someone’s capability to commit such a crime. Muhammad Rashid of the Fredericton Islamic Association addressed the attacks.
“[These shooters] are ignorant of Muslims … innocent people, their brothers, fathers [are now] gone.”
Even though Rashid mourned those lost, his speech took on an overall tone of resounding hope. In one person’s act, he implores us to remember the rest of the society out there, holding vigils similar to Fredericton’s on the street, with hundreds of candles flickering on through the darkness.
“I think we forget the other people … who are very supportive, very sympathetic.”
Rashid moved to Fredericton 32 years ago and feels fortunate to be in such a supportive and accepting community.
“It is very comforting … that we are together.”
“This attack is an attempt to say Canada is something other than it actually is,” said Zelazny.
Through the vigil she organized at St. Thomas, she hopes to convey the message that we still “stand for peace.”
At the vigil, people stood in small groups yet seemed farther away, lost in their own thoughts. But some voices spoke messages of hope and healing.
“Go forward with love in [your] hearts,” said STU student Ashley Alward. “We live in a world that is full of hate and fear and prejudice … The only way to combat that is with something stronger, which is love.”
Later on, student Emily Beaulieu reminded people at the STU vigil of the colloquial expression “Love trumps hate.” The message keeps on popping up and spreading, as a resounding message of optimism for the future.
Fredericton mayor, Mike O’Brien spoke a few words to a somber crowd, their faces illuminated by the candlelight.
“In New Brunswick, in Fredericton, we don’t build walls to keep people out. We go to the airport to meet people to welcome them with love.”
In Fredericton, St. Thomas University and across Canada, Canadians each mourned the six lives lost and the breach of peace.
Zelazny reminds Canadians, “we are united by so much more than what divides us.”