Multi-faith ceremony in Quebec City calls for end to all forms of terror
Faith communities speak as one to mark first anniversary of attack on mosque
Standing under a photo of Quebec City's iconic skyline, Boufeldja Benabdallah closed a multi-faith ceremony Sunday evening with a tribute to the city he loves, and a call for peace.
"Six of our great friends died violently, taken by bullets shot from deadly weapons," said Benadbadllah, who co-founded the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City's Sainte-Foy neighbourhood, where six men were killed in an attack last year.
Benadbadllah echoed several other speakers at the ceremony in pleading for an end to violence and acts of terror.
The ceremony is part of a series of events meant to mark Monday's anniversary of the shooting. A vigil will be held near the mosque on Monday evening. Several dignitaries, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are expected to attend.
Sunday's multi-faith event, held in a large Quebec City arena, began with speeches from friends and relatives of the dead.
After paying tribute to her father, Khaled Belkacemi, Megda Belkacemi said acts of hatred had no place in Quebec society.
"It is through inclusive initiatives like this one, where all communities are gathered, that we will be able to build one united community," she said.
"He knew how to put sunshine in your day. I could always count on him," he said.
Mamadou Tanou Barry's niece, Aissatou Baldé, described her uncle as "a social magnet." She added: "His network grew exponentially. He naturally made friends will all those he met."
All faiths share stage
Between 300 and 500 people attended the ecumenical service in which Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Muslim leaders took part, after an opening ceremony from First Nations.
The multi-faith event ended with a medley of REM's Everybody hurts and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. The choir was joined by three children who lost their fathers in last year's shooting.
Yacov Weil, a cantor for Quebec City's Jewish community, recited El Malei Rachamim, a prayer traditionally offered during a burial service.
"Beyond our affiliation to any religion, we are above all human," Weil said.
Turning the page
Tracey Martin and Réjean Bouchard were among those who attended the ceremony. They were also at last year's vigil, which occurred with little planning the night after the shooting. That event was sad, this one was joyful, they said.
Christiane Gilbert, who attends the Sainte-Foy mosque and lost a friend in the attack, said she hoped these commemoration events will help bring closure to the families of the victims and the Muslim community as a whole.
More political events in Montreal
Earlier on Sunday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante took part in one of several neighborhood ceremonies marking the shooting across the city.
"From a city perspective, we need to [make] sure Montreal is a safe space," Plante said.
Unlike in Quebec City, the events Sunday in Montreal struck a more explicitly political tone. They were organized under the banner of "We Refuse to Forget; We Reject Islamophobia / anti-Muslim Racism."
Pamphlets were handed out at a memorial in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighborhood informing people how they can advocate against racism.
- Quebec City Muslims alarmed by increasingly public displays of racism one year after mosque shooting
A news release sent Sunday morning said, "The attack on the Grande Mosquée de Québec was not an isolated event, but a reflection of mounting anti-Muslim racism in Quebec."
It said the rallies are meant to advocate against hate and racism, and highlight the fact Quebec leaders are not marking the anniversary with a day against Islamophobia.
This story is part of CBC's in-depth look at the aftermath of the shooting at the mosque in Quebec City one year ago. CBC will also have special coverage of the commemorative events on Monday, Jan. 29, including live radio, TV and online broadcasts.
With files from CBC Montreal