Members of Victoria’s Muslim and Christian communities are putting aside their religion and coming together to help bring Syrian refugee families to Victoria.
For the first time in history, the Masjid Al-Iman Mosque is joining the Oak Bay and St. Aidan’s united churches to hold a joint event this weekend in hopes of drawing attention to the refugee crisis in Syria.
Reverend Michelle Slater with the Oak Bay United Church said members of the congregation were moved to action after seeing images of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach. Kurdi drowned after the boat his family was on from Turkey to Greece capsized.
The photo, which surfaced in September, has since garnered international attention and has ignited communities across the world to take action and help refugees.
“We were not only shocked, but felt deeply called to do something concrete,” Slater said, adding the partnership gives members the chance to learn more about the Muslim faith and build relationships with the community.
“We immediately thought that the Muslim community would be a vital ally in the work because we assume that most refugees from Syria and the Middle East are Muslim in faith and will need that kind of spiritual support.”
The group hopes to sponsor two or three families to Victoria, by not only providing financial support for living expenses (they’ve raised more than $58,000 so far), but also expertise in English as a second language training, childcare and helping people negotiate the medical system.
They have also committed to provide furniture, household goods, clothing, food and other basic supplies when the families arrive.
Imam Ismail Nur said the event acts both as a fundraiser and as a way of bringing awareness to the refugee crisis.
“At the end of the day, what really matters is helping people in need because these are real people, real lives, and our action and inaction affects those kinds of people in that situation,” he said.
“We agreed that even though Christians and Muslims, they have their differences, the things that bring us together far outweigh those differences and one of those things is helping people in need.”
The event takes place on Saturday, Oct. 31 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Masjid Al-Iman Mosque (2218 Quadra St.) and will include speakers from the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society and the British Columbia Muslim Association, as well as a tour of the mosque.