Looking injustice in the eye

Nanaimo vigil pays tribute to the victims of the Quebec City mosque attack. Image by Russell McNeill. Shared under a CC BY-NC 2.0.
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Recently I found myself talking with members of the Parish of Pender and Saturna Islands and one of them reflected that COVID-19 has brought out both the best and the worst in people. We had been talking about how disturbing it was to see the images of Confederate and Nazi flags in Ottawa as part of convoys protesting vaccine mandates. That this transpired was bad enough, but that it happened on the national day of remembrance for the Quebec City mosque shooting — and that the act of remembrance in Ottawa was cancelled for fear of violence — is a sad and tragic testament to how white supremacy and Islamophobia are an all-too real part of Canadian society. We must do better.

As baptized people, we cannot turn a blind eye to this type of violence and hatred. We are called to respect the dignity of every human being and to strive for justice and peace, and clearly, there is much work to do right here in our own country.

Six men died in the shooting in Quebec City while at prayer. Their names were Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzeddine Soufiane and Aboubaker Thabti. They were fathers, husbands, loved ones, colleagues and Muslims. I heard a piece on CBC Radio about them and, not surprisingly, they continue to be deeply, deeply missed by their loved ones, communities, coworkers and the remaining members of the mosque.

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The radio piece talked about how members of the mosque shared not only worship but meals; how the members supported one another through the tough times and cheered one another during the good times. All of us who are also members of worshipping communities can only imagine the horror and loss of having six beloved members shot while at prayer — and another five seriously injured.

March marks the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a season of self-reflection, penitence, prayer and almsgiving. Thank you to all who are marking Lent with us by taking part in the Intersections series to look at the history of racism here in BC. The interest has been phenomenal, and we are already planning additional sessions. My hope is that over the next year or so most members of our diocese will take part in a session and that this will also be an opportunity for us to invite the wider community to join us in the important work of dismantling racism. While the first two series are already fully registered, more sessions will be added in the spring. Email [email protected] to be notified when the next set of series is scheduled.

We must all find ways to intentionally create a Canada of love, justice and inclusion. We must all stand up to hate, white supremacy and violence, in all its forms. As Desmond Tutu once famously stated, “Those who turn a blind eye to injustice actually perpetuate injustice. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

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  • Anna Greenwood-Lee is the 14th bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia and the first woman to hold that position.