(Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS) Aamir Hussain is the resident imam of the Jamia Riyadhul Jannah, the Garden of Heaven Mosque, which opened last fall in Whonnock.

Lower Mainland church, mosque come together after New Zealand attacks

From tragedy and pain grows trust and friendship

The senseless terror attacks spinning their way around the world are bringing together two small groups of Christian and Muslim worshippers in the Maple Ridge countryside.

When 50 worshippers were shot to death in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, a few members of the Holy Spirit Anglican Church walked the 100 metres or so from their church to the nearby Garden of Heaven Mosque.

They just wanted to show their support to the Muslims, who were grieving the massacre that took place half a world away.

A few weeks later, on Easter Sunday, Christian churches and hotels were bombed in Colombo, Sri Lanka, killing more than 250 people.

To show their support for those grieving that attack, a few members of the mosque returned the visit and stopped in at the Anglican church on Sunday. They came bearing flowers and a sympathy card to express their sorrow over the bombings.

Anglican church member Jean Davidson appreciated that her Muslim neighbours would know that Christians would be in pain from what happened in Sri Lanka.

“It’s an unhappy way to establish a rapport, but we did talk about getting together for some of each other’s festive, holy days,” Davidson said.

“We were quite pleased that they reached out in that way.”

From the beginning, they wanted to be good neighbours and part of the community when they established the mosque, she added.

Rev. Tim Morgan said members of his congregation visited when the mosque first opened while members of the mosque attended a church concert. Morgan also met with the previous imam and they discussed the similarities in the teachings of the Bible and Qur’an.

Jamia Riyadhul Jannah British Columbia, which translates into Garden of Heaven Mosque, is located in the former Whonnock United Church, on River Road and 272nd Street, where limited renovations were done to the 125-year-old heritage site to fix wear-and-tear issues for use by the new congregation.

A grand opening was held a few months ago.

It’s early days for the relationship between the two congregations, Davidson said.

“Both parties have expressed that this kind of connection will continue, but we’re existing with respect for each other’s traditions.”

Davidson said the visitors made no distinction between the pain felt from the shootings in New Zealand and the bombings in Sri Lanka to the recent shooting in the synagogue April 28 in California, she added.

The two tiny congregations even share a parking lot.

“We’re trying to welcome each other, to use what we’ve got, what we each have,” Davidson said.

Rahan Ahmad said the two groups invite each other to special events. For instance, the Anglican church is hosting a summer barbecue.

“We try to have inter-faith dialogue, community connections with everybody there. It’s a good way to have multi-faith dialogue and work on the similarities we have, more than our differences,” Ahmad said.

Since the mosque opened last January in the former United Church building, about 20 people attend Friday prayers.

Several services will be provided at the mosque, including five daily prayers, the Friday prayer – which is the Muslim Sabbath, Ramadan, where there will be the breaking of the fast and late night prayers.

Prof. Imam Syed Badiuddin Soharwardy said earlier that the mosque will not only help the Muslim community in the area, but also help “our non-Muslim friends and neighbours and colleagues to come and understand and learn about our faith, and we learn about their faith.”



pmelnychuk@mapleridgenews.com

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Aamir Hussain is the resident imam of the Jamia Riyadhul Jannah, the Garden of Heaven Mosque, that opened last fall in Whonnock. His congregation along with those at the Holy Spirit Anglican Church, about 100 metres down the road, are supporting each other in the Maple Ridge countryside. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

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