"Our biggest fear is not of terror, but of ignorance."
Those were the words of Lila Mansour to Prince George residents who came to grieve the loss of victims of the recent terrorist attack in New Zealand in a vigil put together by the UNBC South Asian Student Society tonight (March 16).
A 28-year-old man was arrested and charged with murder and awaits other charges after opening fire at two mosques, killing 50 and injuring 50 others.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the attacks were one of New Zealand's darkest days, adding "extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and, in fact, have no place in the world."
Tragedy can be on the other side of the world, but it can strike closer to home than one may think.
"Hearing about the events really triggered a lot of emotions," Fizza Rashid, Co-President of the South Asian Student Society told PrinceGeorgeMatters on Friday. "Not only are we horrified, we are sad and scared for our Muslim brothers and sisters out in the community. This is not the first time we have seen an attack like this happen where innocent Muslims have been murdered due to extremist white supremacy ideology."
Tonight, the same feelings were shared from many in attendance, including the Mayor of Prince George, elected officials, the Muslim community and the UNBC South Asian Student Society.
"I can't wrap my mind around it," Mayor Lyn Hall said. "I can't understand." while speaking of experiencing the impact on the community from the Quebec City Mosque Shooting in 2017 and now the tragic events in New Zealand.
The mood at city hall was sombre, there were many tears and a lingering sadness but being there as a community proved how terror does not scare people, rather it makes them come together.
"Growing up in Prince George, I've never been afraid to be Muslim," Mansour added. "I've never been afraid to show I'm Muslim. I'm very thankful for that and the wonderful Prince George community that has always supported me and I'm very fortunate."
Mansour added it felt she was back too soon to mourn lives lost, experiencing the same feelings from the Quebec City Mosque attack two years ago.
Six men died after being gunned down during evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City on Jan. 29, 2017.
The attacker, later discovered as Alexandre Bissonnette, was charged with six counts of first-degree murder.
"Racism and discrimination are very real," Mansour says. "Hatred and extremism are present in the world around us, these things can't be ignored. It is our job to spread love and peace no matter who we are, what our background is or what our religion is. Every life is important, whether it is a Muslim life, a Christian life or Jewish or anyone's faith, we must look past our differences and instead look at the things that connect us and bring us together."
"We feel overwhelmed with support, grateful to live in Prince George, and hopeful that things will continue getting better as long as people continue to care and be present," Neelam Pahal said after the vigil.