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

Craft cannabis development planned for Castlegar

Plans are underway for one of the first craft cannabis industrial parks in the province.

Rossland council passes plastic bag ban despite legal questions

Appeal court ruling threw bylaw in limbo, but council voted to move forward

Abra Brynne wins Kootenay-Columbia Green Party nomination

Brynne is one of three candidates who will challenge MP Wayne Stetski

Police call Appledale death a homicide

But few other details being released

Fire engulfs car on weekend

No one injured in incident

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

Most Read