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By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative

Sherbrooke residents gathered in a show of solidarity for Morocco and Libya outside of Sherbrooke’s town hall Sept. 17, both countries being the recent victims of natural disasters killing thousands. The event was organized primarily by Sherbrooke’s Actions Interculturelles; Its Director General Mohamed Soulima headed a list of politicians, religious, and related organizational leaders that addressed the gathering concerning the recent disasters and the need for financial aid. The Record attended to get the details.

The event began officially with part of the Koran being chanted in Arabic as an introduction. Afterwards, a member of the crowd asked for the passage’s significance. She was told the spirit of the passage was a request for God to guide our hearts onto the right road.

Soulima then asked everyone to share a minute of silence. Afterwards, he thanked the City of Sherbrooke for allowing them to gather in front of its town hall. Catherine Boileau, Municipal Councillor for Brompton was there to represent the Sherbrooke Mayor, who could not attend.

Boileau addressed the gathering. She said she did not have the words to describe how many who have a connection to Morocco and Libya must be feeling right now. She emphasized how hard it is to imagine the difficulties and suffering they are going through, but that the citizens of Sherbrooke are with them. She assured them that they will come through this stronger than before.

University of Sherbrooke professor Abdelilah Hamdache, a representative of the Institut du Monde Arabe et Musulman de l’Estrie (IMAM) also spoke at the event. He acknowledged it was a sad occasion, but noted that they gather for happy occasions often as well. He said unhappy events happen in life; life is a mixture of the good and the bad.

The disaster in Libya is much worse than that of Morocco, Hamdache said, by way of comparison. There are nearly 3,000 reported dead in Morocco, he said, and nearly 6,000 injured. He follows the news on the situation, and all the roads that were destroyed are now functional. He happily reported that a school that was closed due to the disaster will reopen tomorrow. Morocco has mobilized its trucks and food is being delivered to those who need it.

There are at least 20,000 dead in Libya, he said. “It’s a catastrophe,” he said, whole blocks of the city were completely washed away.

Soulima said Actions Interculturelles has already started receiving donations. He was shocked by one anonymous donor that promised to double all donations made up to $20,000. Actions Interculturelles will set up a website specifically for aide for these disasters, he added.

Lennoxville Town Councillors Claude Charron and Jennifer Garfat attended the gathering. “I think it’s really nice that somebody is taking charge of this,” Charron commented. “It’s perfect for the situation.”

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