The following is a brief speech given as part of the Newmarket Interfaith Vigil, held in honour of the 6 victims of the Quebec City mosque attack

Hello. My name is Bri-anne Swan, and I am the Community Pioneer Minister with the Living Presence Ministry, a community ministry of the United Church of Canada in East Gwillimbury. Part of my role is to facilitate the welcoming of our many, many new neighbours in the housing developments throughout the Queensville and Sharon areas – new neighbours from many different faiths and cultural backgrounds.

It is with both a sad and broken heart that I am with you tonight.

I also have my son, Isaiah, here. Isaiah will be five years old on Valentine’s Day. Last night, I explained to him that we were going to a vigil this evening, because something very bad has happened. Six good people have been killed and a lot of people are feeling very sad and afraid. I explained that it is important that when people are sad and afraid that we show them that we care, and that they are not alone.  It’s important to show that we love them.

After a few moments of quiet, Isaiah said, “Well, I will walk around and hug and kiss all the people so they won’t be sad anymore. I don’t want my friends to be sad. And I don’t want people to be scared.”

When one group is the target of hate, it is easy to feel isolated and alone. It is easy to feel like everybody is against you. One of my desperate hopes for Muslim Communities is for you to know that this is simply not true.

Today in Toronto, members the Jewish community from the Holy Blossom Temple formed a silent “Ring of Peace” around the Imadadul Islamic Centre during their weekly prayer service. Churches are hosting prayer vigils across the country, including Sharon-Hope United Church just up the road.

And I have Isaiah with me tonight. I want for him to see that when bad things happen, when people are hurt, it is important to come together. It is important to take care of each other. It is especially important to take care of the most vulnerable. And it is required that we stand up and speak out against hatred and injustice.

So, our community will continue to speak out against the Muslim Ban in the United States. We will speak out against the violence in Quebec, and the ongoing vandalism of Islamic places of worship. And we will stand anywhere and everywhere we are needed, even with hugs (if desired).


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