On a beautiful Sunday evening in July, people on the Danforth in Toronto were subjected to violence and fear, and so much anguish.
The following Wednesday, I rode my bicycle downtown for an appointment. Taking my usual route meant that I would be passing through that very area. Seeing people gathered at the different memorial sites unsettled my soul.
After my appointment, I returned to join the evening vigil. About 20 minutes before the vigil was scheduled to start, people started arriving… and arriving…. and arriving… There were so many, I couldn’t find the other OLMs that I knew were participating. Though alone throughout the walk, I felt very connected.
The vigil began with an acknowledgment of the land. And then, we were reminded that we had gathered to remember and support three families who had lost loved ones. I was touched that the family of the shooter was included. They too are experiencing terrible anguish. It was noted that some might try to use what had happened as an excuse to fan Islamaphobia flames. The speaker firmly stated, “We will not stand for this!”
And then, as we sang “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” and other chants we walked to Alexander the Great Parkette. We blessed the Danforth with our feet, with our songs, with the sharing of flame to light our candles, with hugs and prayer and a reverent quiet.
After so much had been taken on Sunday evening, on Wednesday there was a spirit of giving. Ahmadiyya Muslims were giving out t-shirts on which was written, “Love for All, Hatred for None.” A couple of young women were giving out red paper hearts. A group of Sikhs were giving out vegetarian food. Hugs, smiles and tears were shared in abundance.
As I climbed back onto my bicycle and headed home, my soul felt nourished and full. It was like I had been to Church.
by Christine Gebel, OLM