Ilkay Cakirogullari (left) said news of the New Zealand massacre shocked him. (Photo by: John Boivin)

Vigil re-affirms belief in peace, acceptance in wake of New Zealand massacre

Nearly 100 show up for solemn event at Mir Centre for Peace

News of the deadly attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand seemed surreal to Ilkay Cakirogullari, a student at Selkirk College.

“I have been to New Zealand, and I visited one of those mosques,” he said. He said his experience with that community was one of welcoming and sharing.

“They didn’t even know I was a Muslim, I just went into the mosque and they invited me in for tea. I spent a few days with them and they invited me to their homes.

“I can remember going through the mosques’ doors, you could just go in. This [shooter] was 28 years old, like me, and he just walked through those doors too.

“It is so horrible, that community was so open to me.”

The attack killed 50 people, and was explicitly planned to fan the flames of race hatred. It prompted condemnation around the world.

That’s why Cakirogullari joined nearly 100 other people for a vigil on Thursday at the Mir Peace Centre at the College.

He says for him the vigil was not only a moment of reflection, but a chance to appreciate what he has in Canada.

“I can walk around here and say ‘I am a Muslim’, and that’s fine. That’s how it should be.

“It makes me feel good, to feel happy because I am really grateful people came. Even the police showed up and that’s great, to see the police coming as well.”

Zakeea Al Hanafy, a rural pre-med program student at the College, said the vigil also helped affirm for her that she belongs to a caring and open community.

She said when the attack first happened, her mother didn’t want her to go to the College that day.

“I said ‘Mom, this is Castlegar, this is my community, this is my college, this is my home’,” she recalled. “This is where I feel safe and supported.

“So being here today confirmed for me ‘you are right, you are safe here’.”

The names of the shooting victims were read out, with brief biographies about many of them. Holding votive candles, participants were asked if they would like to speak. Many chose to talk about love and hate, peace and violence, caring and community— and what they felt they could do to make the world a better place.

After the gathering, Centre staff shared plates of bread from cultures around the world. The chair of the Mir Centre for Peace, Jennie Barron, said she was thrilled with the turnout, which packed a large room in the Mir Centre building.

“I was expecting 20 people,” she said. “So this is wonderful.”

She said the vigil was held for many reasons.

“It is expressing condolences, our shock and horror of the event, but also wanting to support all those who feel threatened by the rise of the alt-right, the white nationalist movement,” she says. “And thirdly, to reaffirm for ourselves there are things we can do and we are going to do them.”

Barron says one thing she would like to see is more dialogue and interaction between people from different cultures.

“We have a pretty diverse mix at the College, but that doesn’t always ensure people interact,” she says. “So we have to create spaces, and opportunities. We have to create forums for dialogue and building friendship.”

One of those opportunities will be on Friday, March 29, when the College’s Peace and Justice Studies students are holding a “community conversation” on embracing the city’s changing cultural and social landscape. The meeting is from 4-6 p.m. at St. Rita’s Church in Castlegar.

 

Zakeea Al Hanany (left) says she believes Castlegar is a caring community and safe for Muslims. (Photo by: John Boivin)

More than 100 people showed up to the vigil to express their condolences and reaffirm their opposition to hate in all its forms. (Photo by: John Boivin)

Just Posted

Carfentanil found for first time in Castlegar

Killer opiod found in local illegal drug market

Rossland’s Seven Summits school gets grant to grow global presence

Centre for Learning hopes to triple the number of international students it has

Rural dividend grants awarded in Kootenay West

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy made the grant announcements in Trail on Thursday

Rossland skiier places third at U19 Canadian Ski Cross

Rossland’s Sage Stefani finished out a successful season.

Warfield elementary school celebrating 70 years

Webster Elementary School officially opened April 23, 1949; open house and events planned next week

Homeless activists outside Notre Dame demand ‘a roof too’

Wealthy people have donated millions to effort to rebuild cathedral after devastating fire

PHOTOS: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says ‘I do’ on Earth Day

May and John Kidder got married Monday morning in Victoria

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Ex-mayor of northern village claims its drivers are overpaying ICBC $1,800 a year

Darcy Repen says data shows Telkwa households are being ripped off for car insurance

Deadly synthetic drug found in Kamloops that puts users in ‘zombielike’ state

Interior Health warning says substance causes ‘speedy, trippy-like symptoms’ and hallucinations

Trudeau to be portrayed on ‘Simpsons’ episode

Toronto journalist who’s posted videos of himself doing impressions of the PM voiced him for the show

Elizabeth May’s wedding dress a ‘walk through a garden’ on Earth Day

Green Party leader set to get married in Victoria

Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

The men disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in the Icefields Parkway

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

Most Read