In the wake of New Zealand’s deadliest mass shooting in recent history, people gathered for a vigil on March 16 at Fredericton’s City Hall.
After a gunman opened fire on the Al-Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, killing 50 and injuring dozens, communities around the world held vigils to honour the victims and support the Muslim community.
Gül Çalıșkan, a sociology professor at St. Thomas University, is a founding member of No One is Illegal Fredericton, the group that organized Fredericton’s vigil.
“These tragedies show us how strong our communities are and how strong we can be together,” Çalıșkan.
“When we hurt collectively, it’s important to gather in this space and do it together so we can heal.”
Çalıșkan was prepping for her Friday class when she heard about the shooting. She said she couldn’t understand how someone could be filled with so much hate.
Çalıșkan wanted to find a way for Fredericton to honour the victims. On the evening of March 16, she and the other group members of No One Is Illegal Fredericton, decided to hold a vigil that would give people a chance to express themselves.
Despite the harsh winds and light snowfall, Çalıșkan said about 150 people attended the vigil. Green Party leader and MLA David Coon spoke at the event.
Coon believes the city coming together to support the Fredericton Muslim community makes it stronger.
“When tragedy strikes in one part of our community, in this case, the Muslim community … we need to show our support, respect and our love,” Coon said.
Arif Hasan, a first-year student at the University of New Brunswick, attended the vigil to spread a message of love and support for the community. Hasan said the attack was hateful and people need to understand the importance of diversity.
Hasan’s friend, Fredericton local Matt Branton, is in his final year at UNB. He said Canada needs to be an example of overcoming hatred and improving the world.
Wasiimah Joomun, a third-year St. Thomas student from Mauritius, couldn’t attend the vigil downtown or the one held at UNB, on March 19, but offered her prayers to the victims.
On March 16, Joomun posted a video on Facebook by Now This, an American media website, on the New Zealand shooting. In the post she wrote, “For those who have passed away in this atrocious act, may Allah (SWT) grant you Jannah (Heaven) and to the Muslim community, the families and those in distress, may Allah (SWT) give you Sabr (patience), peace and comfort.”
After two Muslim students reached out to her in response to her post, Joomun realized she wasn’t the only Muslim student on campus, which gave her a sense of community. Some of Joomun’s other friends, who aren’t Muslim, checked on her as well to make sure she was OK.
Joomun said one way Canadians can support the Muslim community is by talking about the religion.
“I would rather talk about my religion than them not saying anything,” Joomun said.
She said it was empowering to hear from others.
“Just know you have people around who think your religion is beautiful.”