A woman holds a candle during a Jan. 30 vigil in support of the Muslim community in Montreal. A lone gunman entered the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center and opened fire Jan. 29, killing at least six men who were praying and injuring 19 more. CNS photo/Dario Ayala, Reuters

Speaking Out: Quebec mosque shooting is an attack on us all

By  Elizabeth Chelmecki, Youth Speak News
  • February 10, 2017

On Sunday, Jan. 29, just as I was getting ready to leave church after an evening Mass, a gunman opened fire on a mosque in Quebec City, killing six people and injuring many more shortly after the end of their evening prayers.

I was shocked and horrified to hear about the Quebec shooting. I cannot imagine such terror in a place of peace and worship. A mosque is a place where Muslims come together in prayer, just as a church is for Catholics.

This is an attack on the Muslim community, but it is also an attack on Canada’s diversity. Canada is a welcoming and open country. No one should be afraid to live their faith in the fear of persecution. Intolerance and hostility have no place here and when someone threatens that, we need to step up and stand for the very things that make us strong.

According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes against Muslims in Canada have more than doubled since 2012. There are countless occurrences of vandalism, assault and hate directed at the Muslim community, but over half of hate crimes are not reported to police.

Even though Canada is globally recognized as being an inclusive society, Islamophobia is on the rise and it is becoming an issue that must be addressed.

We need to recognize this isn’t a unique event. The failure to do this is itself Islamophobia, perhaps even more detrimental than direct and visible forms.

In light of the Quebec shooting and the recent hostility towards the Muslim community, I am reminded of the countless instances in the Gospel where Jesus accepts those who have been marginalized and outcast.

For instance, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, a travelling man is attacked by bandits and left for dead on the side of the road. Both a priest and a Levite pass by the man, yet avoid him and fail to help. Despite the fact that Samaritans and Jews were generally hostile towards each other, it is a Samaritan who decides to help the man.

In this parable, Jesus teaches us that our love for our neighbour should be universal, despite any differences such as race or religion. As Catholics, we are called to serve and love one another just as Jesus would. We can do this by not remaining indifferent to injustice, as the priest and Levite did when they walked past the man in need, but by confronting the injustice with compassion.

Jokes, attitudes and beliefs, no matter how subtle, work to dehumanize Muslims and foster hate. By learning about the Muslim community and correcting biases, we are taking an active step in shifting the attitude towards Muslims.

The Quebec shooting is a call for greater love, tolerance and openness. Now more than ever, we need to align ourselves with the Muslim community and protect the religious rights of everyone.

(Chelmecki, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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