Victoria mosques, politicians mourn deadly New Zealand attack
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Friday, March 15, 2019 10:40AM PDT
Last Updated Friday, March 15, 2019 6:43PM PDT
The Canadian flags at the B.C. legislature and Victoria city hall are flying at half-staff Friday, as Victoria police are increasing their presence at local mosques.
The flags were lowered in honour of the 49 victims of two mass shootings Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand. At least 41 people are confirmed dead after a 28-year-old white nationalist from Australia opened fire inside a mosque during Friday prayers.
An assault on a second mosque in the city killed several more. Police did not say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings.
B.C. Premier John Horgan tweeted his condolences for the victims and their families Friday morning, saying “my heart breaks for those affected by the deadly Islamophobic attack.”
My heart breaks for those affected by the deadly Islamophobic attack in Christchurch, NZ.— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) March 15, 2019
Today is Jumu'ah, the day of prayer in the Muslim community. I offer my support & deepest condolences as people gather together to worship & mourn, & recommit to standing against all hate.
Worshippers at Victoria's Masjid Al-Imam mosque were greeted by police as early as 5 a.m. Friday. Sympathizers, including a representative of the local Sikh community, also came by the mosque to leave flowers.
Officer Chris Gilbert said the police wanted to let the worshippers know they were safe.
“We came by first thing in the morning, just to touch base," he said. "It’s an important part of our community. We want to let them know we're here for support.”
Police Chief Del Manak said he reached out to the mosque’s Imam and offered support. “These events are happening in my mind and my opinion far too often," Manak said.
We are working with our local mosque leaders and have increased our presence and patrols throughout BC. Our sympathies are with #ChristChurch #NZ and— BCRCMP (@BCRCMP) March 15, 2019
all of those impacted by this tragedy. pic.twitter.com/3seVa9nVjP
Lyndon Sayers, a co-pastor at Lutheran Church of the Cross, said it was important for him to pay his respects. “We can rally together as communities and rise up against Islamophobia," he said.
Imam Ismail Nur of the Masjid Al-Imam mosque took to Facebook to condemn hatred and xenophobia of all kinds.
“Whenever innocent people, people attending prayers are attacked, regardless of their religion, faith or way of life, we are all at a loss as human beings,” Nur said.
“If there is any silver lining to this horrific event, let it be that it strengthens our resolve and makes firmer our effort to stand up against bigotry and xenophobia where ever it shows up.”
He acknowledged that his mosque was feeling fear, but many members were also grateful for the support of the broader community.
“The community feels worried," he said. "There's a lot of confusion and fear. But at the same time the outpouring of support has always been great and it still is.”
Approximately 500 people showed up for the Friday afternoon prayer at the mosque.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps also released a statement on the attacks Friday calling for a moment of silence.
“I condemn the violence perpetrated in two Christchurch mosques and request that the community take a moment of silence today to mourn with the victims and their families," Helps said. "The City of Victoria stands in solidarity with our Muslim community against rwacism, Islamophobia and discrimination, and for diversity, inclusion and love.”
A civic vigil was held between 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Centennial Square, behind city hall.