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Friday prayers inspire calls for unity and peace

Mosque packed as citizens come together to support Muslim community
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The Muslim community of Guelph opened its doors to all for Friday prayers. Rob O'Flanagan/GuelphToday

The sense of coming together as one was palpable at the Muslim Society of Guelph mosque Friday afternoon.

The local Islamic community opened its doors and invited the broader community in for Friday prayers. The mosque was filled to capacity.

It appears that last Sunday’s mosque shooting in Quebec City has galvanized the country and the city of Guelph to come together in support of our Muslim citizens, and to uphold Canada’s multicultural values and identity.

Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield, mayor Cam Guthrie, and city councillor Phil Allt were among the dignitaries that spoke at the prayer service.

Muslim Society of Guelph imam Mubeen Butt brought many to tears with his powerful opening remarks, in which he spoke of the Prophet Muhammad’s fundamental teaching to always spread peace and to never judge others as lesser than yourself.

The imam said incidents of negativity towards Muslims have been propagated by a few. Those acts of intolerance go against human values, Canadian values, and the principles of all religious faiths, he said.

We are all tested and challenged in our lives, he said. And the glad tidings of God are given to those who are patient - those who keep themselves well-grounded in times of upheaval, and combat the negative forces with positive actions of good character, love and compassion.

Diversity, he said, is a God-given attitude of creation, and of humanity. All have been created with uniqueness, and that is a beautiful reality. All share a common, identical humanity on the inside.

“Every single human being is sacred,” imam Butt said. “We don’t know what is in the heart of the individual.”

Our shared purpose, he added, is in acting to connect the hearts of people, to “love and be loved.”

Guthrie began his brief remarks by saying that he was part of a meeting Friday that included seven mayors and Ontario Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa.

But instead of talking exclusively about things like infrastructure and transit, the mayors and minister spoke at length about what could be done to build bridges in the aftermath of Sunday’s shootings, and to ensure that our communities are welcoming and caring towards refugees and immigrants. 

Guthrie said we have limitless capacities for caring for others, and there should be no holding back of those capacities, only giving back.

“I am proud of our community for opening its doors, for opening our homes, our kitchens, our cars, and our wallets,” he said, speaking of Guelph's extraordinary effort to welcome Syrian refugees. 

He challenged the members of the community to not let their giving and caring wane or falter, and to always stand for diversity, tolerance, and acceptance.

Longfield said Canadians “open doors for each other.” That is what we are known for, and that is what we must continue to do. Ask ourselves, he said, what we can do to help create safer, more inclusive communities, and then act.

Allt said the people of Guelph find strength in each other, and that its citizens share a common heritage of faith, a lineage of tradition and a common culture rooted in Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions.

“We understand that while there may be a poverty of political will, we embrace our differences here in Guelph and elsewhere, and we create unity,” Allt said. “We can be repairers of broken walls. We can be the opposite of anger and fear.”

Following Friday prayers, the large gathering was invited to share food prepared by the Muslim community.