Hundreds of Calgarians stood in a circle outside city hall on Friday evening to grieve in the aftermath of the New Zealand mosque shooting that left 50 people dead.
Signs read “Spread love, not hate” and paraphrased words from the Quran: “Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as if he killed all of humanity.”
Religious leaders from a range of faiths, politicians and activists spoke to the crowd, condemning the attack and urging action against extremism.
“We saw how, just like a video game, a shooter just went in and just kept on shooting and shooting and shooting,” said vigil organizer Saima Jamal to the crowd. “In a mosque where the carpets were green, I prayed in a mosque where the carpets were red today.”
It’s a sanctuary where people go to heal, she said in an impassioned speech.
“The mosque is the place that you feel is your home right after you’re home,” Jamal said. “That’s the place that you’re supposed to feel the safest.”
She said that maybe in sharing grief, it will lessen, but she also emphasized that this was a “vigil with purpose,” urging people to stand against white nationalism.
“They are not patriots,” Jamal said. “Patriots don’t push their agenda through hate and evil. We are the true patriots that are standing right here.”
The public had a chance to offer reflections into the mic, with many talking about how people need to work together to combat bigotry and violence against Muslims.
Amirah Azmi attended the vigil, saying she wanted to support her community in the face of Islamophobia.
“Us Muslims, we shouldn’t be scared to go to the mosque and practice our religion — it’s not fair,” she said.
“Personally, I wasn’t affected, but as a community, we all felt it.”