Hundreds gather to honour victims of New Zealand mosque attacks

Despite grey skies, wind and rain, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Charlottetown Saturday to honour the victims of the recent deadly mosque attacks in New Zealand. 

Fifty people died, and 50 more were injured in the shootings last week in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

"Our heart, yes, it's broken, but the life, it's not broken," said Alhadi  Abusneena, president of the Muslim Society of P.E.I. "And we want to send our message: we are together, we support each other, no one can divide us."

The society organized the vigil as a way to honour the victims, and also to come together as a community on P.E.I. 

Sarah MacMillan/CBC

Sadness and hope

For those in attendance, there was a mix of sorrow and hope.

Following a moment of silence, there were several speakers, including members of the Muslim community, as well as the president of the P.E.I. Jewish Community, MP Sean Casey, Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown and Deputy Police Chief Sean Coombs. 

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"We want to make it mixing all the community," said Abusneena. "And we will show the country and the world the support and the joining of the different parts of the community here."

Speakers acknowledged community support, while also calling people to action, to combat Islamophobia, racism and any forms of intolerance. 

Sarah MacMillan/CBC

Fatiha Enniri said she had a "warm feeling in my heart" to see so many people at the vigil. But she said she doesn't want the conversations to end there. 

"It's not enough just to gather," said Enniri.

"I really hope that people will stay connected … try to know your neighbours, especially if they are from other cultures, not just Muslim, but any other faith. And try to learn from them, their story. What you could do for them. What is their festival for example? Their stories. I think it's simple actions of humanity."

'Depth of compassion'

Judith Bayliss was one of many from outside the Muslim community who showed up to show her support. She said the mosque attacks have been weighing heavily on her mind, and she knew she had to attend the vigil.

While it was a sad occasion, she was glad to see so many people come together.

"It's a vigil for a horrible reason," Bayliss said. "But it's reassuring to know that there's a depth of compassion and concern."

Sarah MacMillan/CBC

While for some the New Zealand attacks were a reminder that violence and tragedy can happen anywhere, Abusneena said he has no concerns about safety on P.E.I., particularly given the support he has seen in recent days. 

"Nothing will change, and we will [live] our normal life. And anyone is welcome to our mosque."

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