By Kyra Wex –
Nour Elmestekawy, a grade 11 student at Nepean High School, wanted to find a way to demonstrate a show of support for the Muslim community after the Quebec City shooting. She did so by inspiring the student body at Nepean High School (NHS), using social media as a rallying point. Using Facebook, she asked her fellow students to show their support by wearing green on February 4. Green is a symbolic colour for Islam.
“NHS didn’t stop there,” she says.
Under the leadership of Principal Patrick McCarthy and teachers such as Jessica Houghton, NHS students and staff linked arms and formed a human chain across the halls and through the school. Many were wearing green.
“The reasoning behind forming a chain is to symbolize something strong, something together,” says Nour. She points out how the chain resembled a force, repelling evil out of the community.
“We want to prove that what happened is not acceptable,” explains Nour.
The human chain garnered a lot of support among staff and students.
“It looked as if the entire school participated in supporting the Muslim victims of Quebec City. Approximately 1300 students linked together forming the chain,” says Nour. “It turned out better than I could have ever imagined. I was so proud of our school… everyone was positive and everyone showed their utmost support.”
She also mentions her excitement and surprise when she was featured on CTV. She did not know it was going to gain that much attention.
The chain became an important catalyst. It made a difference, as it opened the eyes of students, and increased awareness.
“Gathering everyone initiated an important dialogue and helped everyone understand the magnitude of what happened. This attack was on a holy place; a place of worship in Canada. Tragic incidents like these should not happen in our country, and as a school, we stood against this,” says Nour.
She believes the event generated discussion and understanding among the students.
“A lot of people began to share and talk about the issue on another level – not just that it happened – but how we can make a difference, one person at a time, or as a broader community and as Canadians in general,” she says.
“We were able to demonstrate that NHS can make a difference. We can show that we care, and that every religion belongs,” explains Jessica Houghton, the lead teacher/organizer of the event.
“I think this had a great impact on our school, especially for the Muslim students,” says Nour. “Throughout this event, we highlighted and reinforced to all students that the NHS community is a single community that is safe and welcoming for all religions. The positive engagement of our student body in creating a human chain proved this. Everyone feels they can belong. It was very moving.”
Kyra Wex is a grade 12 student at Nepean High School.