Photo credit: Robyn Brady.

Chatham-Kent’s Muslim community was surrounded by love and support at the Civic Centre as a drive-by vigil was held to honour the victims of a hate crime in London.

The Afzaal family was run down while out for a walk hear Hyde Park on Sunday, killing four and leaving a 9-year-old boy in hospital.

A 20-year-old London man has been charged with four counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Police say the accused targeted the family because of their Muslim faith.

Last night’s vigil was sponsored by the Chatham-Kent Muslim Association. President Hassan Elhkodr says hatred is driven by a lack of understanding.

“People are judging people without knowledge,” Elhkodr says. “They make up information, they make up lies and they speak about it, and that’s where the problem is coming from. We need to build our bridges, bring those walls down between communities, and hopefully we’ll be able to understand each other more.”

Elkhodr believes there needs to be greater leadership, and plans on holding future discussions with local government and community leaders to try to find a better way forward.

“Whether it’s churches, religious leadership, municipalities, police, government, on all levels we need to open up and let everybody speak their faith and their truth,” he says. “”If somebody has a problem with (someone’s faith,) talk about it. If they know who we are, they will respect us just like we’re going to respect them.”

It’s been four years since similar vigil was held at the Civic Centre in the wake of the Quebec City mosque shooting. Elhkodr hopes this is the last time the community has to mourn a family killed by hatred.

Yesterday’s vigil was originally supposed to be held in Tecumseh Park, but municipal officials switched it to the Civic Centre to better adhere to COVID protocols. Premier Doug Ford temporarily lifted COVID restrictions for a memorial held in London the night before that drew more than 10,000 people.