Letters of peace shared at Winnipeg grocery store following mass shooting in New Zealand

By | March 23, 2019

Just over a week after a mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand left 50 people dead and many more wounded, letters with hand-drawn peace signs hang at the front counter of Blady Market on Portage Avenue. 

The owners of the Middle Eastern food store, which opened last October, said they were given to them by two young girls who came to the store with their mother following the attack last week.   

“They told me… we hope you feel … safe over here and we are sorry that what happened,” said Amnae Ebnoughalazl, who owns the specialty grocery store with her husband Issa Qandeel.

The words “we are happy to be your neighbour,” are written on each letter, along with the message “we are praying for peace for you and your community and our community together.”

Qandeel grew up in the West Bank city of Ramallah and moved to Winnipeg about 10 years ago to further his education. He decided to stay in the city after completing his studies. He met his wife, who is originally from Morocco, in Winnipeg. 

Amnae Ebnoughalazl and Issa Qandeel opened Blady Market on Portage Avenue last October. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Qandeel wasn’t at the store when the letters were dropped off, but said the girls’ mother had asked that they be posted somewhere in the shop. The family had shopped at the market in the past.

A week later they are still displayed at the front counter. 

“We’re proud of it,” he said. “These letters show people that we live in a respectful environment.”

Photos of the letters were also posted on the store’s Facebook page.

“Just to show people how kids think,” he said. “Why don’t we think like kids?”

Qandeel said when he first saw video of the shootings in Christchurch he didn’t think it was real. But, reality soon set in. 

“It was really awful, really, really awful,” said Qandeel. “I don’t know like how this person thought about doing something like this.”

He said what happened in New Zealand hasn’t changed his feeling of security in Winnipeg. 

“I go to the prayers every Friday,” said Qandeel. “The same … week [it] happened I still feel safe to go to the mosque and pray.”

Letters brought to Blady Market on Portage Avenue by a family are displayed at the front counter. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Ebnoughalazl thanked the family for the letters and let the children know she feels safe in Winnipeg.

Qandeel said he plans to hold on to them.

“I’m not just going to leave them like this,” he said. “I’m going to maybe frame them and put them maybe for my reference, maybe in the office downstairs or something.”