When I moved to Canada a decade ago with my family, I was blown away by not just the acceptance, but the inclusivity that greeted us everywhere.
We had called many places home, but Canada was by far the easiest to integrate into. It truly was a diverse cultural mosaic where our differences weren’t merely tolerated, they were in fact celebrated.
One felt safe, valued, and very much a part of the fabric that creates this beautiful community.
Then, as if out of nowhere, something horrific happens and it jolts you, shaking your world to the core. What transpired in London, Ontario on Sunday evening has left many of us in a state of utter disbelief and helplessness.
Of course, none of us are naïve enough to think that racial hatred, prejudice, and bigotry have no place in today’s world—they are still very much alive and thriving—but how could it happen in Canada, the most tolerant of all societies?
It seems we are facing a hate-infused pandemic in our communities—from Black Lives Matter to Asian hate to now Islamophobia-related hate crimes.
For those of you who may not know, in what the police has deemed a hate crime, a premeditated Islamophobic act of terror, a 20-year-old adult ran over an entire family, who were merely out enjoying their daily evening walk. In a senseless and grotesque expression of hatred and violence, one man wiped out three generations of a family on account of their faith—a 74-year-old grandmother, a 46-year-old husband, a 44-year-old wife, and a 15-year-old daughter, with the youngest member of the family, their nine-year-old son, being the only survivor.
My family and I love going out for walks as well. In fact, it has been our favourite activity, especially during the numerous lockdowns all of us have gone through since last year. The fact that it could just as easily have been me and my family fills me with a sense of anxiety and unease.
And then my thoughts go back to the nine-year-old boy, the only surviving member of the entire family, currently in hospital. We have received the update that he will make it through and recover, but to wake up to this reality: how will he even begin to deal with and recover from the trauma of losing his parents, grandmother, and sister, spurred on by such intense hatred?
My heart breaks for that poor boy whose entire world was completely shattered in the blink of an eye.
My mind has been in a turmoil oscillating between feelings of incredible sadness, dejection, but then also anger, which then slowly dissipated.
I just felt completely broken looking at the world around us, with so many divisions and boundaries, intolerance abound, and wars being fought, innocent people losing their lives everywhere. When will we wake up to the only reality that matters—we are all human, and we need to realise and see all of humanity as one.
Now more than ever, we need to stand together, value each individual’s life as sacred, with no one having superiority over the other. Race is not a choice. Ethnicity is not a choice. But hate is a choice. We need to realise that hate only begets hate, just as violence only begets violence.
We need to choose love over hate.
I leave you with the wisdom of none other than Nelson Mandela:
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Praying for the friends and family of the Afzaal family, the London community, and Canadians still reeling from the shock and sorrow of this horrific incident.
It was heartening to see not just the Muslim community, but all Londoners, and leaders of all political parties across Canada, federal and provincial, including our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, gather in London last night at the vigil held to honour the Afzal family and the lives lost.
Seeing the solidarity, support, and commitment from all those present to stand against hate and the rising tide of Islamophobia gives a sense of hope that action will now be taken.
We all shoulder the responsibility of doing the hard work required to advocate and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion for everyone.
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