The high school youth group of Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ont., attended a celebration of World Hijab Day at that city’s local mosque, Masjid Al Noor, on February 2. The group of 20 teens and five leaders was among an estimated 500 attendees of the annual event co-sponsored by the Qamer Foundation and the Islamic Society of St. Catharines.
In an email to youth group members’ families describing why they chose to make this a youth group outing, the church’s youth and young adult ministry coordinator Anna Bailey wrote: “It’s a worthwhile opportunity, in light of the tragic events at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec this past weekend, to stand with the Muslim community in Niagara, to lift our heads high together, and share life together. And [it’s] an action-oriented response to this call from our church leaders.” On January 29, a gunman entered a mosque in Quebec City during evening prayers and killed six men, injuring several more.
The event included a tour of the mosque, learning the Five Pillars of Islam, and tasting homemade treats. The women were able to choose a hijab (head scarf), have it fitted properly by one of the women from the mosque, and take it home as a gift.
“Overall the experience was really amazing and eye-opening,” said Brin Schat, one of the youth group members. She said it was a good reminder that except for different beliefs, the people she encountered were no different than her: “I don’t understand why people are afraid of people who aren’t like them when they don’t know them.”
The youth group also presented a card painted by one of their peer leaders, and signed by members of the group and other Jubilee parishioners: “We pray for your peace and safety.”
Schat said, “It was really fun seeing the reactions of people when we were there. I think that the people who were in charge were excited to see such a large group from our church.”
World Hijab Day, February 1, fell on a regular meeting night for the youth group. They gathered at Jubilee Fellowship CRC and met for prayer before taking the eight-minute drive to the mosque. They plan a follow-up debriefing session in the coming weeks.
Bilkis Al-Haddad, founder of Qamer Foundation and organizer of the St. Catharines event for two years running, said the turnout this year was double that of 2016.