Between 1,000 and 2,000 people gathered outside the Masjid-an-Noor Mosque in St. John’s Friday to form a “human shield” around the building as members of the city’s Muslim community prayed inside.

The grassroots event was organized as an act of solidarity with Muslims in Newfoundland and across Canada less than one week after six people were killed and five critically injured in a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City.

It also comes amid protests across the United States in response to American President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning most refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Today, from east to west, from north to south, Canada has spoken: No to the hate. No to bigotry. No to religious violence. No to intolerance. And yes, to love for all human beings. –Dr. Syed Mansoor Pirzada

Outside the mosque in St. John’s Friday Dr. Syed Mansoor Pirzada, President of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (MNAN), told those gathered outside that MNAN and the Muslim community in St. John’s is “overwhelmed with the unprecedented of outpouring of sympathy, support and solidarity from Canadians, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from all walks of life,” and that the gestures “are a true demonstration of Canadian values, of tolerance and inclusiveness and love.

“Although this tragedy has taken irreparable toll on Muslims throughout the country, the kindness and generosity of fellow Canadians has been a great source of comfort and reassurance,” he said, thanking the politicians and religious leaders that have also expressed their support for Muslims across Canada.

“The commitment shown by human shield organizers and thousands of participants and individuals who took time off from their busy schedule to be here and show solidarity with Muslims tell us that voice of tolerance, peace and inclusiveness is far stronger than the voice of intolerance, hate and division,” Pirzada continued, prompting applause from the crowd.

“Muslims are an important part of the beautiful Canadian collage and have made many sacrifices and contributions for the peace, stability and prosperity of their beloved country.

“Today, from east to west, from north to south, Canada has spoken: No to the hate. No to bigotry. No to religious violence. No to intolerance. And yes, to love for all human beings.”

Reverend Canon David Burrows of the Anglican Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador expressed solidarity from the city and province’s Christian community.

“When we speak as religious individuals and discuss, we recognize that when one is poor, then the whole of society is poor. And so when one part of the community experiences murder, fear, injury, we become less than the place we hope to be.”

“There is no room for hate in our country,” Bonavista–Burin–Trinity MP Judy Foote announced, before addressing the Muslim community directly.

“We are here to let you know that you are Canadians…that your home is here, with us in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in Canada, and that you will always have our support, you can always depend on us to be there for you and with you. And on behalf of the prime minister of our country, I reiterate his words that you are one of us, and that we are one of you.”

Posted by on Friday, February 3, 2017

Windsor Lake MHA Cathy Bennett said “[T]ruly, it is love that is unifying. And it is our experiences as human beings that binds us together, no matter our birthplace, our choice to live where we live, where we work. It is love that unifies us, not only in our province but throughout our country.”

St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said the city of St. John’s, as a community, will “reach out to the Muslim members of our community and extend to them our sympathy, our sorrow and our strength.”

Gobhina Nagarajah, the human shield event organizer, spoke last, asking participants to continue demonstrating their support throughout their daily lives.

“I hope you all take the commitment that was shown today to inclusivity and diversity and show acts of kindness and compassion to your fellow neighbours, and not stay silent in the face of bigotry and Islamophobia and hatred,” she said.

Congregation members then entered the mosque to pray, as those outside formed a circle around almost the entire building. A sermon and prayers, in both English and Arabic, were broadcast through speakers to everyone outside.

Justin Brake (he/him) is an independent journalist from Newfoundland who currently lives on unceded Algonquin territory in Ottawa.