Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and representatives from various local faith groups were joined by more than 100 people at Stuart Park on Saturday (June 12) to honour the Muslim family who was attacked in London, Ont., earlier this month.
The memorial, organized by the Kelowna branch of the BC Muslim Association, began with prayers from the Quran and a moment of silence for the five victims who were targeted because of their faith. Fayez Afzaal, nine, Yumna Afzaal, 15, Madiha Salman, 44, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, were struck by a truck while out for a walk on June 6.
Fayez, the sole survivor of the attack, was released from the hospital earlier this week, according to reports. A day after the attack, Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. He is now facing an additional two charges for terrorism.
Basran told the crowd that the attack left him at a loss for words.
“I’m really proud of this country, I’m proud to live in this country. But we have some work to do,” he said.
“The thing I can’t get out of my head is that this family was just out for a walk. They were out for a walk to spend some quality family time together.”
The crowd gathering together at Stuart Park, he said, marks the beginning of work being done.
“I’m really proud to see other faith leaders who are here to join in solidarity to say that this is not acceptable, that we have work to do and that racism and intolerance where we live can’t go on anymore,” he said. “It’s gotta stop.”
Faith groups represented at the event included the Okanagan Jewish Community, the Baha’i community, the Sikh community and the Christian community.
Mostafa Steve Shoranick, the chairperson for the Kelowna branch of the BC Muslim Association, said that it was moving to have different faiths come together to condemn racism and religious discrimination.
“The unfortunate part is that it takes a tragedy for us to unite. I know and appreciate the support, but we should do that on a regular basis,” said Shoranick. “We don’t need to wait for a tragedy to push a straight path.”
He told the crowd that there isn’t a religion that does not preach peace, and that we were all created as equals.
“God does not look at your shade, does not look at your colour, does not look at what you wear. God looks at your heart and what you do,” he said.
He condemned extremists who bend religion into a tool for violence.
“If we believe God is gonna judge us, so why? Why do we continue — in the name of God — to commit violence, to commit atrocity? Haven’t we learned that hate brings nothing but hate?” he said. “It’s a vicious circle. We feel for the victims. We condemn the act.”