A crowd of Yellowknifers gathered at the city’s Islamic Centre on Friday to show support for their local community following a tragedy a world away.
Fifty Muslims were killed and several others injured when a white supremacist attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last week.
The names of those killed, ranging from just three years old to 71, were read aloud at the vigil on Friday.
Nazim Awan, chair of the Islamic centre in Yellowknife, thanked people for coming and opened with a verse from the Quran.
“‘God created the human race and made us into nations and tribes that we may know each other, not so we can despise each other,’” said Awan.
“We have different tribes, different skin colours, different origins, different languages, different culture. But we’re from same progeny; from Adam and Eve.”
As tragic as the attack in Christchurch was, it is not a new occurrence, he said.
“It has happened in human history due to hate, due to misunderstanding, due to fear,” said Awan.
While it may be easier to ignore these things, we should fight them together.
“Remember, Islamophobia kills,” said Awan.
“Islamophobia is a reality. We cannot ignore it and just say this doesn’t exist. It is a reality, even in Yellowknife.”
The way the people and leaders of New Zealand reacted in support of their Muslim community after the attack is an example for others to follow, he said.
“They said you are not others. You are us. That is the message we have to take.”
Tee Lim, who called himself a ‘kiwi in Somba K’e’, organized the event ‘Love and Solidarity: Sǫǫ̀mbak’è Vigil for Christchurch.’
“We should all feel safe wherever we choose to make our homes,” said Lim.
“We grieve with you, we mourn with you and we stand with you.”
Lim reminded the crowd that they were on Chief Drygeese territory, the traditional land of the Yellowknives Dene people.
“If you’re not indigenous to a place, then you’re an immigrant, just like me,” said Lim.
Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, white supremacy and racism are all real things, he said.
“They kill and they live with us in this country – meaning in New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere – and they need to be challenged,” said Lim.
Yellowknife mayor Rebecca Alty also offered support to the Muslim community on behalf of the city.
“The tragedy in New Zealand feels like a world away and yet it has touched so many of us as we feel the pain of loss and condemn the action of the individual who instigated this hate crime,” she said.
The Muslim community is valued, and is part of what makes Yellowknife so diverse and unique, said Alty.
“We stand with you at this difficult time and support your freedom to practice your faith in peace and tolerance.”