You are here

Finding Peace After Tragedy

I wish I didn't have to write this. I wish I was writing an Easter message about lent leading to resurrection, or videos and stories about meeting Martin Luther King, Jr.'s family in Atlanta this month, or news from the peace and justice conference I attended there. But a tragedy has struck my city, Toronto, and I am compelled to walk the long path back to peace with my fellow Torontonians, and the others around the world whose hearts are with us at this time.

If you aren't familiar with the event, a young Canadian man, Alek Minassian, plowed a van at full speed down a pedestrian-filled sidewalk on Toronto's main street on April 23, 2018, killing 10 and injuring 15 others. The suspected motivation for the attack is anger over a type of social ostracism called involuntary celibacy. When I heard of the tragedy on Monday, I listened to the news for hours, watching the situation unfold, seeking to know what had happened. The work I had been doing paled in significance to the fight for life and security on Yonge Street.

After absorbing all the known details at the time, I was drawn to my computer. This month, I published an article on how to prevent and respond to terrorism with peace in Liguorian magazine. I never imagined it would be immediately relevant to my own city, Toronto the Good. I contacted the editor, cross-posted it on my website, and started sharing testimonies of people who have overcome other violent tragedies with peace. I wanted to shine a ray of light for peace in the darkness that struck us at midday.

The next day I was drawn to the epicentre of the attack, Yonge and Finch, to pay my respects to the victims and stand in solidarity with other mourners. As I arrived, local residents announced they had launched We Love Willowdale, a group formed to cleanse the act of hate with love. "We do not want evil to steal our peace, to steal our love, to steal our sense of community. We hope this is the beginning of a change in our neighbourhood, where we will be more caring for each other, where something that was meant for evil will be turned into something good. This moment can be redeemed if we all change our hearts together," co-founder Lily shared. A Christian, after she prayed for Toronto, she invited the Imam of a local mosque to lead prayers. Already, love and unity was piercing the darkness. We're in this together. They invited musicians to bathe Yonge and Finch with healing music for the next 25 days, one for each victim of the attack.

I am proud of the love, restraint and peace that Torontonians have demonstrated throughout this tragedy. The police officer who apprehended Alek Minassian, Constable Ken Lam, did so without violence, although it appeared that Minassian was drawing a gun. I shared stories and hugs with strangers in grief whose hearts drew them to stand in solidarity against the violence. Mosques, churches, and communities have united to promote "Love for all, hatred for none." People are finding their roles in God's peace plan.

How can you find peace after such a tragedy? I would say, with much patience. It is enough for the victims of the tragedy to breathe today. Their cry for peace right now is loud tears and laments. They need time to process their grief, anger, loathing at the cruelness of the killer, the unfairness of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and maybe anger at God for not protecting their loved ones from this tragedy. Wounds this deep are not quickly healed.

For those of us on the periphery, our current role in God's peace plan may be to pray, donate, bring our voice or guitar to Yonge and Finch, or share the most powerful thing I have ever found to build empathy and nurture peace - our own personal stories. The long, healing journey towards peace starts with one step.

In retrospect, maybe this is an Easter message. We've been to the grave. We're mourning the deep darkness of undeserved death. But although we're in the valley of the shadow of death, we will not fear evil, for God is with us. Our fellow Torontonians are with us. The world stands with us. God will help us transform what was meant for evil into good. The resurrection is coming.

We Love Willowdale: Countering Hate with Love

Article Type: 
Location :