‘Our sec­ond home’

Syr­ian refugees en­cour­aged by can­dle­light vigil for vic­tims of Que­bec mosque at­tack

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CAPE BRE­TON POST STAFF

It’s been just un­der a year since Rame Alas­far and his young fam­ily moved to Cape Bre­ton, and if the Syr­ian refugees needed fur­ther proof they’re wel­come here, they got it Tues­day night.

Alas­far, his wife and their three chil­dren were among the more than 350 peo­ple who crowded the pub­lic square in front of the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity Civic Cen­tre for a can­dle­light vigil to mourn the six men who were gunned down dur­ing evening prayers at a Que­bec City mosque on Sun­day.

Af­ter flee­ing Daraa, Syria, and mov­ing to Sydney Mines in March, Alas­far said the dis­play of peace and sol­i­dar­ity at Tues­day’s vigil was re­as­sur­ing to him and his wife Afaf Alakrad and their chil­dren Huda, 9, Ghena, 7, and Mo­hammed Alas­far, 4 — es­pe­cially af­ter Sun­day’s shoot­ings.

“We’re happy to see this united com­mu­nity and we’re con­fi­dent that noth­ing like this is go­ing to hap­pen here,” he said.

“This has be­come our sec­ond home and we’re happy to fi­nally be safe at home.”

Molly Ayer en­cour­aged Alas­far and his fam­ily to at­tend the vigil.

“We just want to show them that we stand with them. I know they were sad and scared, and be­ing in a new coun­try they didn’t know what this was go­ing to mean for them,” said Ayer, who at­tended with her sons Brighton, 7, and Cameron, 3. “We just wanted them to come and see how many peo­ple here were stand­ing with them.”

Brighton, who is friends with the Alas­far chil­dren, said the mes­sage was sim­ple.

“We want them to feel safe, that’s all,” he said.

Um­ran ul-Haq Bhatti, Imam of the Ah­madiyya Mus­lim Com­mu­nity’s Sydney chap­ter, said Mus­lims in Cape Bre­ton were “very sad and our hearts were shat­tered” af­ter Sun­day’s at­tack. How­ever, he said the out­pour­ing of sup­port has been touch­ing.

“It just shows us that we should stand united against extremism and vi­o­lence in all forms.”

John Duffy of Sydney, who came car­ry­ing a sign stat­ing “We have to learn to co­ex­ist: There is only one race … hu­man,” said he wants all mi­nori­ties to feel wel­come in Cape Bre­ton.

“I just want to make a point that what hap­pened had noth­ing to do with true Cana­di­ans, and that we sup­port all mi­nori­ties,” he said. “Th­ese peo­ple come over here want­ing a bet­ter life and that’s not too much to ask — I don’t think it is — so we’re here to sup­port them.”

Dr. Ar­salan Raza, pres­i­dent of the Cape Bre­ton Mus­lim So­ci­ety, was one of sev­eral speak­ers at the vigil, which in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives from dif­fer­ent faiths and politi­cians. He said the Que­bec City at­tack should be a “wakeup call for all of Cana­di­ans.”

“I’m so happy to see peo­ple all over Canada so lov­ingly com­ing close to the Mus­lim com­mu­nity — it brings the heart to tears and I hope we can con­tinue this,” he said. “Our prayers are with all vic­tims of ter­ror­ism, no mat­ter what re­li­gion they be­lieve in.”

Melissa Deane and her hus­band David Deane came to the vigil from North Sydney with their chil­dren Addy, 3, and Ly­dia, 1 to show their sup­port for Mus­lims.

“We should be here,” she said. “There’s not much we could do but take part and show that we’re one com­mu­nity.”

Alas­far said his fam­ily is be­gin­ning to un­der­stand what it feels like to be Cape Bre­ton­ers.

“We’re happy to be here,” he said, adding that they are grate­ful to their spon­sors and the com­mu­nity. “It’s made me feel like I have a sec­ond fam­ily.”

CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTO

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CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTO

Syr­ian refugees Huda, 9, and Ghena, 7, Alas­far take part in a can­dle­light vigil in front the CBRM Civic Cen­tre on Tues­day night. The sis­ters, who moved to Sydney Mines in March af­ter flee­ing their home in Daraa, Syria, at­tended the vigil with their fa­ther Rame, brother Mo­hammed, 4, and mother Afaf Alakrad.

Duffy

Alas­far

Bhatti

Deane

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