As the world continues to grapple with last week’s mass shooting in New Zealand, hundreds of people from all faiths showed a touching display of solidarity for a Victoria mosque Friday.
The group of supporters formed a symbolic human chain outside Al-Iman Mosque as a sign of protection for the local Muslim community, which is still reeling from the deaths of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 14.
The gesture was organized by Sikh Youth of Victoria, whose members said it was the least they could do.
“We were like, we should do something to show them that the whole community of Victoria is together and they don’t need to fear,” organizer Gurinder Singh said.
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The event was just one of countless demonstrations taking place Friday around the world as New Zealand honoured the victims with a national day of reflection.
Supporters said they wanted to make sure the Muslim community felt like equals.
“I wanted to make sure that everybody understood that they’re full neighbours of our community,” Julia Milton said.
As worshippers exited the mosque to the crowd, they were visibly overwhelmed. Many were shaking hands, giving hugs, and offering their gratitude.
“I can’t emphasize the importance of it,” Al-Iman Mosque secretary Mustafa Abousaleh said, “because in such instances sometimes what communities do is they become isolated from each other, so such gestures they help maintain that engagement and make it more apparent.
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“We’re feeling the warm feelings that they’re trying to communicate to us.”
Rallies and vigils have been held at mosques and community centres across B.C. ever since the tragedy unfolded.
Vancouver alone saw hundreds gather with candles and prayers the day after the shooting at the city’s oldest mosque, with an even larger rally held over the weekend outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Cities from Kelowna to Penticton to Burnaby also saw similar events.