My heart feels so heavy over the  last few days, hearing the tragic event at the Mosque in Quebec City, along with the travel ban from the 7 predominantly Muslim countries in US.  I want to take a moment to tell my Muslim friends and families that I respect your faith and I welcome you in our country, in our community.  I want to encourage everyone to reach out to tell their Muslim friends and families that they care about them.  They need to hear our words and our support. I feel keeping our silence is no longer acceptable.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was an immigrant child. It wasn’t too long ago my husband was a refugee. Our marriage and our family is a product of Canadian values that embrace diversity and welcome immigrants and refugees.  As a new comer,  I felt like an outsider. I wanted to feel normal; I wanted to fit in. But soon I realize there is no such thing as normal. We are all different on many levels and normalcy is only an illusion.

Things that made me cope better adapting to this new country was the warmth and kindness from Canadians.  It could be a friendly smile. It could be an acknowledgement of my existence. It could be a kind gesture to welcome me in a social circle. That was critical to make me feel better.

So the events that just unfolded here in Canada and across the border send a very strong message to new comers or individuals of different faith that they are not welcome.  I cannot imagine the emotional toll that it can take on many individuals. This is how mental health problems begin, and perhaps the social isolation or rejection is where home-grown terrorism find its way in.

We actually have developed many resources to support immigrant and refugee health. Just check out the website from the Canadian Collaboration for Immigrant and Refugee Health. They have tons of resources and guidelines on topics from immunization, primary care screening to mental health support. But when it comes to mental health support, it needs to begin at a community level where all of us should take responsibilities to help support one another in every way we can.

On that note, I also want to point out that for those who somehow find justification with the movement of building walls or rejecting individuals based on differences in faith or race – perhaps we have also failed you in that you feel ignored, that the society has focused so much on diversity and multiculturalism that we haven’t spent time to listen to your voices. You also deserve to be heard but actions stem from fear or anger will not bring out resolutions for anyone.

I hope we all learn from the recent events to reflect on what we can all do individually and collectively to fix the tension and conflict that we have here within Canada and around the world.  Maybe we need to reach out to listen, to understand and to connect.

Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.

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