Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner attends an interfaith vigil at Holland Park.

BUILDING BRIDGES: Tidings of love spring from Quebec tragedy

Semiahmoo Peninsula residents of different faiths joining together

I started writing this month’s column several times this past week, and each time I would stop after a few lines.

It was difficult to get past the opening words; perhaps that is because ‘thank you’ holds such enormous emotion, the weight wouldn’t allow anything else to come out. As I write this, it is six days after the shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec.

I remember the moment I received the news through a Facebook post written by fellow blogger Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed (CanadianMomEh.com). I had just come home from a movie and I immediately went from a state of contentment to pure sadness.

I woke up the next morning with a heavy heart; the more news I caught of the victims, the more real they became as loved and contributing members of their community, and the harder it became to imagine that this happened on my Canadian soil.

But something else started happening that day, too, the day after the horrific tragedy.

Something just as unexpected, something that also left me speechless, but completely filled my heart with light: love started pouring in. Different faith and interfaith organizations, as well as individuals, offered messages of solidarity and support to the centre and their community.

And that love spread to Muslims all over Canada, including right here in Surrey.

Those of you reading this, I am sure, have your own stories to tell of offering kind messages, prayers and friendship. Many of you on the receiving end know that it has been overwhelming and beautiful.

While collecting my kids from school that day after the shooting, a friend of mine walked up to me and said, “With all the horror that is going on, if there is anything you need, please let us know. If you need to be at a march or demonstrating, and need someone to watch your kids, we are around as well.”

I mumbled a ‘thank you,’ but his words didn’t really sink in until I was settling the kids in the car. As I replayed the scene in my head, I realized what an honourable offer that was. And how wonderful it is to be seen – as a Muslim, as an advocate for social change, as a friend. Thank you.

That evening when my husband came home from work, he pulled me aside to show me text messages he had received from friends reaffirming the sentiment that we are loved, we are accepted, we are Canadians.

Not a day has gone by since that someone hasn’t reached out to one of us personally. Thank you.

On the streets, people are walking, people are talking, people are holding signs. There is love spilling over everything. Thank you.

Peace Arch News has done an incredible job covering the outpouring of compassion, which I am grateful for – because isn’t that the kind of news that we need? The article Christian leaders stand with Muslims (Feb. 3) sums up what this entire week has been like.

Make no mistake: the six lives lost will never be replaced. The worry, the fear, the sadness are not forgotten. But in my lifetime, I have gone from neighbours leaving notes at our door asking us to ‘go back home, devil worshippers’ in the 1980s, to neighbours now offering their friendship and help.

For the past year, I have been writing about acceptance above tolerance, and building bridges. I’ve been doing it with my children in mind. Mine and yours. And the children we don’t know but are somehow collectively raising by what we are putting out into our community.

Well, what was put out into the community this past week has humbled me.

I knew humanity was underlyingly good. But you all blew me away with this overt display.

Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

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