QUEBEC – “Survivors of a tragedy like this one can find a way to move forward, they receive help and signs of solidarity. But the emptiness left by the person will never be filled. That’s the hardest part. Knowing that the person will never be there to see their children grow up.”
These were the words of Safia Hamoudi, one of the six Muslim widows of the victims of Quebec Mosque shooting incident last year, at the men’s prayer room of a Quebec mosque, Montreal Gazette reported.
The six mothers of 17 orphans decided to participate in one of the various public commemorative events, which occurred this week to remember their husbands who were shot dead last year at a Quebec mosque.
The mothers expressed their gratitude to all Canadians and they called for togetherness. The widows chose the mosque to make people see and feel the small room where bullets flew at their husbands.
The room’s walls were decorated with thousands of condolence and support messages which the Islamic Cultural Centre has received in the past year.
Idiatou Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry’s widow and mother of their two young children, who was the first speaker managed to say “I want to thank everyone, from close or far, who have supported us since this tragedy.”
Hamoudi, the widow of Khaled Belkacemi, was flanked by two of her children, Amir, 26, and Megda, 28, as she spoke. Her 14-year-old was too overwhelmed to be there, she said.
The hardest part since the shooting, Hamoudi said, “hasn’t been the political debates and social issues that have dominated the conversation in the year that’s followed. Nor has it been the often-raised question of the Muslim community’s place in Quebec.” She has felt at home since the day she set foot here, she said.
“The hardest part is the void. The person’s absence,” she said simply. Hamoudi expressed thanks, as every widow who spoke did, for everyone’s continued solidarity. At the last minute, three decided it was too difficult, asking friends to read prepared remarks instead.
“We must do everything we can to defeat hate and intolerance,” Hamoudi said.
“We must do everything we can to build bridges and go toward each other. To look for what we have in common, rather than look for our differences.”
Asked how they hope the date of the shooting, January 29, 2017, will be remembered, Amir Khaled Belkacemi replied, “I think it’s just very important for us to make sure this date will always be remembered as something tragic and something that really happened,” he said.
“Most importantly for us, it’s a day that marks a before and an after. That’s the most important, regardless of any political whatnot. Those things are not important to us,” he added.
“We just want to make sure that Jan. 29 will always be remembered as a tragic day and a lesson for each and every one of us.”
The widows received thousands of messages, cards, post-it notes, cutouts, and posters — all displayed on the walls and across tables all over the room.
“I wish you an endless amount of light for this dark,” read one note from a young student. “I wish you love and happiness in this time of need.”
The mosque’s co-founder, Boufeldja Benabdallah, addressed the visitors of the mosque by saying “Look around, it’s magnificent,” he said.
“There’s no show going on here, there’s no music. But people are happy. They’re laughing and talking. They’re all here because they want to be here.”
Still today, he said, he’ll arrive at the mosque and find that someone left a bouquet of flowers, a note, or a candle.
“We wanted people to see the love. We can’t keep it to ourselves,” he said. “It shows that goodness is prevailing.”