As this very moment, the number of dead from the Christchurch terror attack remains unknown. Authorities say 49 dead, but a snuff video posted by the perpetrator gives an indication as to a much higher body count. The victims undoubtedly woke up with plans, dreams, and worries like the rest of us, not knowing that they would not live to see the evening.
This, in a country known for its majestic scenery. Carnage, in a country that could teach my country a thing or two about how to properly go about truth and reconciliation with our indigenous population. This, in a country, that in many ways resembles our own. The parallels between New Zealand and Canada are not imaginary. A Terror Expert on Christchurch’s channel 7 news said, in his own words, “New Zealand is kind of like Canada. Nothing like this ever happens in Canada.” Except he’s wrong, something like this did happen in Canada. Two years ago, one of our terrorists walked into a mosque in Quebec City, killing six and injuring nineteen. The parallels between our two nations, once thought to be flattering, now feel unnerving. Should I be worried about the next attack? Surrey, after all, is home to a sizeable Muslim community, with at least seven mosques that I can count off the top of my head. Should I now worry about taking my children with me to the mosque, out of fear that we may be the next international headline?
No. I refuse to live in fear. And here is why.
I have the privilege of working with children on a daily basis. When asked about the difficulties of adulthood, I confess to these pre-teens that the saddest part of becoming an adult is discovering that super-heroes are imaginary, and monsters are real. Except I no longer believe that to be true. For every genocidal Islamophobe, for every keyboard crusader, for every hijab-hating psychopath, for every monster, I have met dozens of heroes. I have worked with the Imams of Surrey’s mosques, some of whom are survivors of wars and destruction, who happily open their doors to their community. I have enjoyed the company of SFU’s Christian chaplain, who never missed an opportunity to make me and my co-faithful feel at home on campus. I have received emails from friends of no obvious faith background who, upon hearing about these all-too-frequent tragedies, remind me that I do not walk alone. I have had the privilege of working for employers who go above and beyond their legal responsibilities in providing me with a space to worship. I refuse to live in fear, because Surrey is my home, and it is my family, and it is filled with heroes.
I refuse to live in fear because this is my city. I am reminded of this fact when I am greeted by the smiling faces at the McDonald’s where I get my coffee in the morning. I am reminded of this at my Jujitsu gym, where there is no discrimination based on skin or belt colour. Despite what the monsters would have us believe, this is my city. This is our city. I own it. We own it. And no one can ever take it away from us.