Manitoba Muslims celebrate holy day in Winnipeg with prayers, donations to wildfire evacuees

Thousands of people in Winnipeg'sMuslim community gathered at the RBC Convention Centre Friday to celebrate Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Eid al-Adha is a day meant for sharing with family, friends — and those in need: spokesman

Thousands of Manitoba's Muslim community gather to celebrate Eid al-Adha, a sacred holy day, at the RBC Centre on Friday. (Bert Savard/CBC)

​Thousands of Manitoba Muslims who gathered in Winnipeg Friday to celebrate one of their most sacred days are offering donations and prayers for northern First Nations neighbours forced from their homes by a wildfire. 

They gathered at the RBC Convention Centre to celebrate Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia..

But in their time of celebration, they did not forget about the hundreds of people forced from their homes in Wasagamack, Garden Hill and St. Theresa Point First Nations who are being sheltered at the centre, refugees from smokey skies and raging flames.

Eid al-Adha is a time when Muslims gather for special prayer services. (Bert Savard/CBC)

Osaed Khan, president of the Manitoba Islamic Association, says the group offered prayer for those affected by the fires and collected financial donations. 

"This is a time for celebration for us, but it's also a time to remember all those that are not as fortunate and are going through a lot of stress at this time. They're right next door to us. We cannot forget our brothers and sisters of other faiths as well."

Khan described  Eid al-Adha as "one of the two biggest holidays for Muslims — to remember the sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim."

In addition to prayer and celebration with their families, Khan says, people will help others in their communities and make a sacrifice of their own, usually an animal, and share the meat with family, friends and neighbours.

It's also a day to share with those in need, he added.

"It's remembering the evacuees from northern Manitoba — they're in the next hall with us," Khan said. "It's remembering them in our prayers and we're collecting donations for the evacuees as well.

Two women take part in Eid al-Adha prayer at the RBC Convention Centre Friday. (Bert Savard/CBC)

Mariam Arunkiet says starting the day with her community is important. 

"We're celebrating Eid with our families," she said. "It is important to start the day with a prayer. We're grateful to God for the day, our family, everybody's healthy. Then we spend the rest of the day with our family, celebrating, eating, just enjoying each other's company with friends and family."

Arunkiet, who immigrated to Canada from Thailand with her family when she was two, says she has only had positive experiences growing up in Winnipeg. 

"Winnipeg is a great place of diversity, so I hope that Canadians around the country would feel the positive experience I have felt," she said. "I think we all have a role to play individually in showing that we are regular people, living our lives as normal, and to be good to our community and serving God at the same time."

A young worshipper at Eid al-Adha celebrations at the RBC Convention Centre Friday. (Bert Savard/CBC)

For those not familiar with the Muslim faith, Arunkiet says, the best way to learn more is to simply ask.

"I think on a one-on-one basis — getting to know each other, about our differences and our similarities, and learn in the process — I think that's the most important."

Mecca is the centre of the Islamic world, and all Muslims must make the journey there once in their lifetime.

Eid al-Adha lasts for five days and will end in celebration on Sept. 5 this year. 

Men prepare to pray at Eid al-Adha celebrations on Friday. (Bert Savard/CBC)