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Demonstrators brave cold to show support for mosque

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Rev. Gary van der Meer, Rabbi Elyse Goldstein,, Imam Ally Shabir and Julie Dzerowicz
From left, Rev. Gary van der Meer,Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, Imam Shabir Ally and MP Julie Dzerowicz

Bitter cold weather did not deter a large interfaith group of Christians and Jews from gathering outdoors and forming a symbolic “ring of peace” around a downtown mosque in an expression of solidarity with the Islamic community following the murder of six Muslim men at a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29.

About 150 people from City Shul, First Narayever Congregation, Congregation Darchei Noam, Makom, St. Anne’s Anglican Church and the College Street and Windermere United churches stood outside the Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International on Bloor Street West, Feb. 3 where 250 worshippers had gathered for midday Friday prayers.

The “ring of peace” was one of at least seven held in the Toronto area. Others were held in cities across Canada.

READ: HUNDREDS OF JEWS FORM ‘RINGS OF PEACE’ OUTSIDE TORONTO MOSQUES

People outside carried signs that read “We are your friends,” “No hate in Canada,” “Peace upon our Muslim neighbours,” and “Interfaith support for all.”

“It’s important to stand up against hate and intolerance,” said Jay Brodbar, a member of Darchei Noam.

His fellow congregant, Rona Kosansky stressed the importance of showing support to followers of Islam. “We have security at our shul and it’s terrible that that has to be the case for a religious institution.”

“Freedom breaks all barriers,” said Rev. Gary van der Meer, parish priest of St. Anne’s Anglican Church. “Our vision of community comes from God, who calls to us all to be brothers and sisters.”

The reverend spoke in the mosque along with Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, a key organizer for this downtown ring of peace.

“The circle of friendship and concern we form outside your mosque today binds us together with you in the holy work of creating a safe, inclusive, compassionate and sacred community,” Rabbi Goldstein told worshippers. “We reach out our hands in peace, friendship and love.”

READ: JEWS ‘STAND TOGETHER’ WITH MUSLIM NEIGHBOURS AT MONTREAL MOSQUE

Julie Dzerowicz, Liberal MP for Davenport, said the shootings in Quebec “were an attack on Canadian values, our openness and our freedom of religion…I’m moved by what has happened outside. Thanks to the [spiritual] leadership for showing us what it means to be Canadian.”

She noted that 52 per cent of the people in her riding were born outside of Canada. “If there is any form of racism I want to know about it.”

Imam Shabir Ally, president of the Dawah Centre, expressed appreciation for this show of support. “We assume all people of good will reject this act of violence… Let us not let hate and anger eat us up.”

He said people like the attacker at the Quebec mosque are sick. “We pray to God to heal their sickness and guide them so they can be better people.”

Imam Shabir also urged to his congregants to mingle with the people forming the protective ring and to bring them food and coffee.

After the prayer service he spoke to the group of supporters outside. “We are all children of Adam… you are conquering hate with love.”

People leaving the mosque walked around shaking hands and thanking participants in the ring of peace.

Abdus Sattar Kissana brought out a tray of hot tea, while Mohamed Akram served samosas from a nearby restaurant. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said.

York University student Raihim Khan handed out Timbits. “I felt so awful after the shootings,” he told The CJN. “It made me think that everybody hates us.

“Today I see that not everyone is out to get us. We all have to work together.”

Mohamed Bassah, a George Brown College student who immigrated from Jerusalem 10 years ago, said he felt “really encouraged” by the ring of peace. “It is heart-warming to see this solidarity.”