As a spiritual leader in the community of North Delta, I feel called to speak up about recent events in our nation and world. Many voices have already and will continue to condemn Sunday’s acts of violence at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. Many people have already pledged solidarity with Muslims in our own neighbourhood, encouraging attendance at peaceful vigils in honour of the victims.
My own heart is full of sorrow at this act and others like it. Acts designed to pull people apart at a time when what is needed is to come together. Acts intended to instill fear, suspicion and division based on differences of ethnicity and religion. Acts designed to escalate violence instead of opposing it.
Ideological violence (when someone thinks to themselves, “they are not truly human”) sets the stage for rhetorical violence (when people feel they have permission to speak such thoughts out loud) and finally (as we have seen repeatedly in history) issues in physical violence. The most dangerous situation is when a practitioner of rhetorical violence gains political power.
The timing of this tragedy in Québec City is not coincidental, given the events of the weekend in the United States. The new president’s executive order banning travel into the United States for Muslims in particular has served to lay a foundation for further acts of aggression toward Muslim people everywhere.
We Canadians are known as people of peace. We treasure our civil society and our democratic institutions. However, as the prophet warns, “Do not say ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” I am convinced that it will not be enough, in the current climate, for us to quietly adhere to these values without acting to confirm them.
I wonder if we have taken such institutions for granted and if our muscle memory in defending them has gone a little slack. It’s time to exercise the muscles of civic responsibility and corporate action in defence of the marginalized, the victimized and those under renewed threat of violence, in our communities and our world.
It is time for Canadians, no matter our ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political affiliation, to claim our democratic rights, to defend the freedoms of those most vulnerable and to induce our elected representatives to lead with courage in these disturbing times.
Rev. Cari Copeman-Haynes
Crossroads United Church