Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director

Canada has its own racist demons.

Can we learn anything from the killing of six Muslims at a suburban mosque near Quebec City on Jan. 29? How do we respond – as individuals and collectively – to such tragic and senseless violence? What does it say about our own society?

Questions like these, and many others, whirl about in our heads as we try to absorb and make sense of the shooting. The response from political and religious leaders has mostly struck the right tone of sadness and concern for those who have lost their lives or their loved ones. Yesterday, Novalis publishing joined Pope Francis and other Catholic leaders here in Canada in our expression of sympathy and prayers for the victims.

For a rundown of what Catholic leaders have said, go to

But more needs to be said and done.

What we know is that a Laval University student — a native-born Canadian — has been arrested and charged with shooting and killing six men in a mosque. Five others have been seriously wounded. At the moment, little else is known about Alexandre Bissonette, who is in police custody. We don’t know yet whether the shootings were motivated by religious or ethnic hatred, or something else entirely. We don’t know whether this violence was connected to other acts of vandalism and hatred experienced in recent months by the mosque.

We know enough, however, to be rightly concerned that these acts of violence have been perpetrated in a political atmosphere that has targeted those who are different from the mainstream, particularly Muslims from the Middle East. In the recent U.S. election, ethnic hatred permeated the campaign, propagated in no small part by Donald Trump, who rode the wave of fear of immigrants to the White House.

But it is not just the United States that suffers from the rise in ethnic tension. The British vote to leave the European Union was fueled, in large part, by the fear that refugees and immigrants were taking the jobs of native Brits. Right-wing parties in France, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere feed off these same fears.

Canada is not immune. The ongoing leadership campaign for the federal Conservative party has been characterized by immigrant bashing. It may be Trump-lite compared to the real thing, but it is ugly nevertheless.

We pride ourselves on not being as racist as “others.” But we have our own demons and they can be just as devastating to the peace and security of our society. During such critical moments in our history, we all need to speak out and reaffirm what is best about our shared values.

For those of us who are Catholic, we are committed to our belief in the dignity and worth of all human beings, and respect for their beliefs. We believe, not in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but in turning the other cheek. We believe in mercy and compassion, as our Pope Francis has reminded us time and again.

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