About one hundred Red Deer residents attended a vigil on Saturday night to mourn the 50 people killed in the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15th.
The group formed a circle in front of City Hall with lit candles in hand while several individuals took turns speaking.
Many of the speakers shared messages of peace about Islam and called for a greater understanding of their faith.
Muhammad Zubair, who was formerly an imam in Kelowna and now works as an IT engineer in Red Deer, spoke at the vigil. Many people don’t understand that Islam is a religion of peace, he said.
“This is why we need to make an effort to educate people that having a difference of opinion on certain things should not cause somebody to take such aggressive action against them.”
He called on people to reach out to Red Deer’s Muslim community to better understand who Muslims are.
“A lot of people when they see and meet us they say, ‘I heard Muslims are like this — but you guys are not.’ That is the problem. We need to approach each other and dialogue will actually help us to understand each other.”
— Red Deer Express (@RedDeerExpress) March 17, 2019
Lara Al-hmaidat said her message was that she doesn’t want people to judge her by the way she looks.
“I feel like we have been judged by the acts of ISIS,” she said. “Although they claim to be Muslims, they are not actually Muslims because in Islam you cannot kill anyone.
“If you kill one innocent soul, it means you killed everyone else. We have been judged by few, few people and we have to defend ourselves every time something terrible happens in this world.”
She encouraged people to come forward and ask questions if they want to learn more about Islam.
“It’s very good to know that we have some people supporting us,” said Ahlam Olamy after the vigil.
But she expressed conflicted emotions about how she was feeling, saying, on one hand, she feels supported but also feels frightened by those who have discriminated against her in the community for being a Muslim.
Andrea Lacoursiere said ‘humanity’ brought her out to the vigil. She was moved by the speakers, she said.
“It was reiterated over and over again that we all bleed the same blood and it runs through all of us and I think that’s why a lot of us are here. Just the recognition of that.”
The event was organized by the Red Deer Welcoming and Inclusive Communities Network.