Vigil held for victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur

A Toronto church with an international reputation for promoting human rights hosted a vigil for the victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur on Sunday night.

Senior pastor Jeff Rock says vigil gave people a chance to come together to grieve

Community members and dignitaries light candles during a vigil hosted by the Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto on Sunday. People came together to mourn the deaths of several men in the LGBTQ community at the hands of an alleged serial killer. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

A Toronto church with an international reputation for promoting human rights hosted a vigil for the victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur on Sunday night.

Attendees at the Metropolitan Community Church lit five candles for Majeed Kayhan, Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Dean Lisowick and Soroush Mahmudi to remember them as members of the community, not just victims. 

Kayhan, 58, was remembered for his love of Bollywood movies and dancing.

Kinsman, 49, was a known community figure who volunteered at an AIDS support group. He was remembered for always being willing to offer a helping hand to anyone.

Esen, 44, had immigrated from Turkey in search of a more accepting country.

Lisowick, who was either 43 or 44 when he died, was described as a gentle soul who'd be the first to come to the rescue in times of need.

Fifty-year-old Mahmudi's circumstances were less known, but he left behind a wife and two children.

Toronto landscaper Bruce McArthur is accused of killing Selim Esen, 44, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, Dean Lisowick, Andrew Kinsman, 49, and Majeed Kayhan, 58. (Toronto Police Service/AP)

Rev. Sandra Morris also lit a sixth candle to remind those in attendance that police believe there are "maybe more victims before this nightmare ends," she said.

The packed ceremony in Toronto's east end was also joined by Mayor John Tory, city councillors and members of the Toronto police.

"I'm going to meet with the leadership of the community and make sure that they understand ... we're grieving with them and secondly that we understand there's a feeling of frustration and fear in the community and, thirdly, and perhaps equally important over time, that we begin to heal," Tory told CBC Toronto.

'Unanswered questions'

Rev. Jeff Rock, senior pastor at the church, said they cancelled the regular Sunday evening service to host the candlelight vigil so that people could come together to grieve.

Rock underlined the need to focus on inclusion in the wake of the tragedies.

"We wanted to create a place where people could come together, grieve together, let out what's in their hearts and build some solidarity as well," Rock told CBC News. 
Pastor Jeff Rock says the unfolding news about alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur has produced feelings of shock, fear, grief and horror across the Greater Toronto Area. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

"[There are] a lot of unsettled feelings in people's hearts and still a lot of unanswered questions, and we open up our doors and invite not only the LGBTQ community but the wider community, recognizing that the entire city of Toronto and the country ... are realizing the horrors as the news comes out day by day."

Rock said the unfolding news has produced feelings of shock, fear, grief and horror that have been felt across the Greater Toronto Area.

He said the vigil at the church in the city's Riverdale neighbourhood was a time for contemplation, community prayer and support.

"Rather than stepping further into ourselves, we really want to build solidarity and continue to push for inclusion in our society, because I think this perpetrator really intentionally picked on the marginalized in our community, people from the LGBT community, and so I think it's now more important than ever for us to build solidarity," he said.

Community support

Leighton Ling, a man who often attends services at the church, said he came because he felt it was important to show support for the community.

"I could have been one of those persons. It affected so many people in the community because of that," said Ling, who said a friend of his had known one of the victims.

"I'm glad that we have a space that we can come to and feel at ease, even if you don't have the answers to the questions. It helps to make you feel better."

McArthur allegedly targeted men in Toronto's Gay Village and now faces five counts of first-degree murder.

With files from The Canadian Press