May 20, 2019

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'The pain is very close to everybody's heart here'

Winnipeg anti-hate convention attendees mourn in wake of New Zealand massacre

Multi-faith prayers for peace and unity opened the final day of the Islamic Social Services Association's anti-hate conference in Winnipeg Friday, just a few hours after a terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand killed 49 people.

The two-day Striving for Human Dignity event featured local, Canadian and American experts who came together to collaborate on community responses to the rise of hate movements and crimes in Canada.

On Friday, prayers were offered to help people in their grieving and to offer hope by standing together, said Shahina Siddiqui, the Islamic association's executive director.

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Multi-faith prayers for peace and unity opened the final day of the Islamic Social Services Association's anti-hate conference in Winnipeg Friday, just a few hours after a terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand killed 49 people.

The two-day Striving for Human Dignity event featured local, Canadian and American experts who came together to collaborate on community responses to the rise of hate movements and crimes in Canada.

On Friday, prayers were offered to help people in their grieving and to offer hope by standing together, said Shahina Siddiqui, the Islamic association's executive director.

Shahina Siddiqui Executive director of Islamic Social Services Association; 'Even though the people of New Zealand are so far away, the pain is very close to everybody's heart here.'

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Shahina Siddiqui Executive director of Islamic Social Services Association; 'Even though the people of New Zealand are so far away, the pain is very close to everybody's heart here.'

"In our Muslim faith, like any other faith community, we turn to the Creator. You can't really make sense of it, but at least you can find some solace," said Siddiqui. "Even though the people of New Zealand are so far away, the pain is very close to everybody's heart here."

She said she was unable to sleep and spent the nearly hours of Friday tracking media reports of the attacks in Christchurch, a city of 375,000 on the south island of New Zealand.

"I just wish that people who are spreading fear about our community, demonizing Islam and dehumanizing Muslims, people (that) think they are like cattle and you can go in and shoot them down in a place of worship, would take a breather," she said. "Today, my community is being targeted. Tomorrow, it could be yours.

49 killed at mosques in 'one of New Zealand's darkest days'

Click to Expand

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - At least 49 people were shot to death at two mosques during midday prayers Friday — most if not all of them gunned down by an immigrant-hating white supremacist who apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter on Facebook.

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"Hate is like fire. It catches onto whatever is near it. We have to put a stop to it. We've said so many times: never again, and we just keep doing it."

Dr. Omar Reda, a world-leading expert in psychotraumatology who was the Winnipeg conference's keynote speaker Friday, said he would speak of hope and healing.

"There are events that are happening that are, unfortunately, becoming more frequent. There is lots of hate and propaganda and fear of refugees and newcomers. I think these difficult conversations will eventually lead to reconciliation," said Reda, a psychiatrist and author from Portland, Ore. He counsels families affected by trauma and has written three books related to the effects of violence and conflict on children.



Psychotraumatology expert Dr. Omar Reda: 'I'm not going to preach a message of despair. I'm going to focus on the human resilience and what we can do to speed the process of healing.'

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Psychotraumatology expert Dr. Omar Reda: 'I'm not going to preach a message of despair. I'm going to focus on the human resilience and what we can do to speed the process of healing.'

"I am very hopeful. Today is a dark day for humanity, but I'm not buying into that hate ideology today. I'm not going to preach a message of despair. I'm going to focus on the human resilience and what we can do to speed the process of healing."

In the wake of the attacks, security measures were increased at mosques around the world, including Winnipeg.

"Friday is the only day when we have congregation prayer, so the mosques are full around the city. I've already emailed the police chief and just spoke to the mayor, who is also making sure places have security," Siddiqui said.

'Just sickening': Canada's immigration minister

LORETTE — Canada’s immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, said he watched in horror as news broke of the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“It was just sickening to see an individual targeting people practising their religion,” he said.

LORETTE — Canada’s immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, said he watched in horror as news broke of the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“It was just sickening to see an individual targeting people practising their religion,” he said.

A manifesto reportedly posted by the 28-year-old suspect is full of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim statements.

On Friday, Hussen was in Lorette to make a federal announcement promoting immigration in Manitoba’s rural francophone communities.

He said societies must be vigilant against people who promote hatred.

“This reminds us that hatred has consequences,” Hussen said. “As people propagate this stuff, some of them decide to target people and literally act out violently.”

"Many of these hate groups are also anti-immigrant. When these groups target a mosque or community centre, they are sending a message to the entire community. It is not a random attack. It was planned and what plans are in the making out there?"

Albert Boakye of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg said the anti-immigrant position of many terrorists is unsettling.

"It is really sad to have these people believing in ideas that immigration is bad, and it's something I don't stand for," said Boakye, who immigrated to Winnipeg from Ghana as in international student in 2014. "Everyone wants to have a safe place to live, and Canada is like a safe haven for many people."

Albert Boakye from the Social planning council: 'Everyone wants to have a safe place to live, and Canada is like a safe haven for many people.'

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Albert Boakye from the Social planning council: 'Everyone wants to have a safe place to live, and Canada is like a safe haven for many people.'

Krishna Lalbiharie, one of the conference organizers, said it was a tragic irony to be holding an anti-hate event in one country at the same time an apparent hate crime happens in another corner of the world.

"It speaks to the rise of far-right extremism throughout the world. New Zealand now, unfortunately, joins Canada as one of several countries which has been affronted by a devastating and deliberate act of hatred targeted against the Muslim community," he said. On Jan. 29, 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six people, wounding 19 more, in an attack on a Quebec City mosque.

"We are devastated, and we join together today in solidarity, and always, with all victims of hate crimes, xenophobia, Islamophobia et cetera. We're very mournful and we're very sorrowful and our prayers go out to the families of the victims in this atrocity and to the people of New Zealand altogether."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Ashley Prest

Ashley Prest
Reporter

Ashley works the general assignment beat.

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