Vancouver – Shocked members of the Syrian community are to hold a vigil for slain 13-year-old Marrisa Shen outside the Vancouver courthouse on Friday.
This is when Syrian refugee Ibrahim Ali will make a court appearance on a charge of First degree murder of the young girl whose body was discovered in Burnaby’s Central Park just hours after she was reported missing on July 18, 2017.
Ali allegedly committed the crime just three or four months after coming to Canada from Syria. He was a sponsored refugee.
Thousands of Syrian refugees have been resettled successfully in Canada. They were displaced by the Syrian civil war and by atrocities committed by ISIS. Many came here from refugee camps in Jordan.
Mohammed Alsaleh, a member of the Syrian-Canadian Foundation, a prominent speaker and community organizer, said he felt sick to his stomach as he began to realize that the suspect was a Syrian refugee.
“Oh my God, oh my God,” Alsaleh said in an interview. “I was shocked and so confused. I started feeling how serious this matter is and I got on the phone and started calling everyone I knew all across Canada.
He said he first had a panic attack and nearly collapsed.
“My worry, and pretty much everyone’s worry in the community is that – not that there would be a backlash but this issue would be politicized and I had 15 people on a conference call coast to coast,” said Alsaleh who immigrated in 2014 and has successfully established himself as a sought-after speaker and refugee training expert.
“We realized that as a community we had done nothing wrong – that the action of an individual should not be seen as the action of a community.”
He and several Syrians, among them academics, put together a letter to show “our solidarity to and our support to the family and to hold a vigil for this poor little girl who had lost her life for no reason in this horrible crime.”
The statement they put together was signed by a dozen prominent Syrians. It said:
SYRIAN CANADIANS MOURN THE LOSS OF MARRISA SHEN
The Syrian community in Canada join their fellow Canadians today in shock and condemnation of the despicable homicide of young Marrisa Shen. We also share in the grief and sorrow of her family. Our hearts go out to you. We extend sincere thanks to the police who spared no effort to uncover the identity of the perpetrator responsible for this horrible act and bring Ibrahim Ali to justice with the full force of the law. At this moment of deep sadness, we earnestly join all Canadians in mourning and hope that this terrible incident won’t result in a backlash against refugees.
“The Syrian community in Vancouver will be lighting candles for Marissa Shen this Friday 9:30 am at Vancouver Provincial Court where Ali is expected to appear in court. Everyone is welcome to join.”