WATCH: Shock and sadness over horrific New Zealand mass shooting has Victoria’s Muslim community calling for love to win out over hate. Tess van Straaten reports.
A steady stream of people, from all faiths and walks of life, drop off flowers and heartfelt messages of support outside Victoria’s Masjid Al-Iman.
“We’re stunned, we’re moved, and tears are pretty close to the surface,” says Charles Joerin of the North Park Neighbourhood Association. “This community is in our thoughts and our prayers because we’re all one community.”
“Anytime there’s an attack on religious community and specifically Muslims right now, we need to come together in solidarity,” says Pastor Lyndon Sayers of the Lutheran Church of the Cross.
At least 49 people were killed at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand — and dozens more wounded — in one of the worst mass-shootings in Commonwealth history.
“It just feels unreal,” says Mustafa Abousaleh of the Masjid-Al-Iman.
Standing outside Victoria’s mosque, Abousaleh explains he knew one of the victims and says he’s still in shock after watching the horrific video of the shooting the gunman live-streamed on Facebook.
“It just felt like they were playing a first person shooter game but those were real people,” Abousaleh says. “He was shooting real people, changing real magazines and just going after real lives.”
Police are stepping up patrols at the Victoria mosque and at mosques across the country.
While they say there’s no specific threat, they want to show support and remind everyone to be vigilant.
“If they see something that makes the hairs on the back of their neck stand up, that they would contact the police on any day, not just on a day after a tragedy,” says Const. Chris Gilbert of the Victoria Police .
“The message is to beat terrorism with love and live our lives and and not allow fear to change the way we live or view each other in the world.”
Victoria Police were on hand as worshipers went in for afternoon prayers and inside, they tried to make sense of such a senseless act.
“It is beyond words and it’s difficulty to even comes to terms with what has happened,” Iman Ismail Mohamed-Nur tells his congregation.
Vancouver Island’s Muslim community is worried it will happen again — unless something is done about the growing Islamophobia.
“I don’t know where that hate comes from, says Asiyah Robinson of the UVic Muslim Students’ Assoc. “I also don’t know why violence seems to be the solution but it’s going to happen unless we do something. We have to do something.”
A vigil was held Friday afternoon in Centennial Square to honour the victims.
Organizers say it’s also a way to stand up against Islamophobia and white supremacy, and show solidarity with the Muslim community.
The flag was also lowered at the B.C. Legislature today and other government buildings.
Premier John Hogan says it’s “an acknowledgment of this great loss” and agrees something needs to be done.
“Whether it be synagogues or it be churches, whether it be mosques, the lack of tolerance and respect for the differences and diversity of our populations needs to be addressed,” the premier says.