When it comes to spreading awareness and making change, protesting in the streets can alienate people. “We wanted to use a different approach,” explained Steve Law, an organizer of the Delegation for Peace for Palestine.
On February 26, organizers of the Peace Delegation wanted to recognize the injustice and the current humanitarian crisis in Palestine, and also break the silence, forge new relationships, and raise awareness. “We want to offer a visual representation to the Arabic community that non-Arabs are concerned with Gaza and with Palestine,” said Law.
Groups from the non-Arab community, such as the Tatamagouche Centre, the Halifax Peace Coalition, and Heartwood Community Youth Engagement, partnered in the creation of the event with Arabic community groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Society, the Canada Palestine Association, the Muslim Student Association, and radio hosts of Salaam Halifax on CKDU 88.1fm.
Dr. Hadi Salah, the principal of the Maritime Muslim Academy, addressed the crowd at the event. “I arrived in Nova Scotia in 1982. Back then we were a dozen families, connecting with our roots, and there was no sympathy in the broader community. For a long time, Arabs gathered to discuss issues that mattered to us, such as peace. Now there are over 20,000 immigrants in Halifax. More than ever, it is important that all Nova Scotians discuss the issues that are so important for Arabic immigrants.”
The informality of the event was important for Mohammed Gharbiya, a member of the Palestine Solidarity Society. “While eating here over dinner, anyone can add their own ideas. Before tonight, I had never heard of most of these groups. Now we can organize together.”
Khalid Abdelwahed took to the microphone and read a poem by his cousin living in Gaza, Hussam Abu Ramadan. The words struck a chord in the audience: “What a terrifying scene it is when you find the charred bodies of a family, consisting of a father, a mother, and their six children, piled on top of each other, not being able to differentiate between their limbs.”
Despite the grave quality of the content, guests were treated to a feast provided by members of the Arab community.
After the meal, Fatima al-Shath, a Palestinian-Canadian and mother, shared her family's story to a hushed and respectful crowd. “It's really shameful that Canada doesn't condemn Israeli aggression,” she said. “We need to show that most Canadians are against these atrocities.”