As the meeting of Council of General Synod (CoGS) opened its session with a celebration of the Eucharist Friday March 15, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada Archbishop Fred Hiltz offered a prayer for victims of shooting attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
At least 49 were killed and many more injured in the attacks, which New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as a “terrorist attack” and “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
“God of grace and mercy, we pray for Christchurch and all of New Zealand. We pray for the victims who have died in these attacks…We pray for all who mourn, for families, friends, communities of faith. We pray for Muslim communities around the world. We pray for understanding and acceptance of people of all faiths and backgrounds,” he prayed.
Hiltz also took a moment to “remember our Muslim sisters and brothers around the world,” said Hiltz. “We in Canada remember especially the community of the Grand Mosque in Quebec City, for whom today’s tragedy is sadly familiar.”
In January 2017, six worshippers were killed and nineteen others injured when gunman Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire at Quebec City’s Grand Mosque.
“It’s a bit like déjà vu, waking up to news of a horrific attack on a Muslim place of worship, and innocent people of worship being gunned down even as they’re praying,” Bishop of the diocese of Quebec Bruce Myers told the Anglican Journal.
Since hearing about the attack, Myers said, he has reached out to Boufeldja Benabdallah, president of the Grand Mosque, “just to let him know that we are weeping with their community again, because this is just going to revive the feelings of horror and fear and insecurity that they are still feeling.
“If it can happen in places like Quebec City and Christchurch, New Zealand, two incredibly peaceful cities in the world, then it seems like it can happen anywhere.”
A gunman who identified himself as 28-year-old Australian Brendon Tarrant live-streamed the attack at Al-Noor mosque to Facebook using a head-mounted camera, according to the BBC. Social media accounts in his name have been found to have espoused racist, anti-immigrant views.
He has been arrested and charged with murder. Three other suspects were also detained, though one was later released.
Hiltz also read a statement to CoGS during its afternoon session, in which he said, “Our hearts are aching for Muslims across our country and around the world.”
The statement also reaffirms “the Anglican Church of Canada’s commitment, reiterated in 2013, to resolutely oppose Islamophobia.” It concludes, “We pray for a conversion for all those whose hearts are consumed by fear and hatred of those who are different, so that we all might recognize our common humanity and live together in peace and goodwill.”
The attack is “a further reminder that Islamophobia is real, it’s in our midst, and its costing innocent people their lives in places like Canada and New Zealand,” says Myers, “and that each of us needs to be vigilant in confronting Islamophobia whenever we encounter it, however we encounter it, whether it’s in conversation with friends or family or neighbours, whether it’s online, wherever.”
Myers encourages Anglicans to reach out to their Muslim friends and neighbours. “Give them a call, text them, send them an email. That’s what I did this morning, just to say, ‘I’m so sorry this has happened, I know this must be causing you great distress and sadness and even fear, know that you’re not alone. We’re praying for you, we care for you, and we’re going to stand with you.’”
He also encourages people to go to a mosque, as Friday is the weekly day of prayer in the Muslim tradition. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec City has also provided a link through its newsletter for those who wish to send a note of sympathy to the Grand Mosque.
“Those seemingly small acts and gestures have a huge positive impact on our Muslim sisters and brothers who are understandably living in fear and insecurity, and so they need to know that we’re going to stand with them and do our best to challenge violence against them, and to help them enjoy the same freedom of religion and freedom to worship in peace as we have in this land for the past couple 100 years.”
In response to the news, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted his “profound sympathy” for the victims of the attack and their families, adding, “Let all Christians pray for healing of people, interfaith relations and New Zealand itself. Jesus calls us to welcome strangers and love our neighbour however different.”