A growing memorial at the corner of Hyde Park and South Carriage roads in honour of a Muslim family who was run down, June 8, 2021. (Photo by Blair  Henatyzen, Blackburn Media)A growing memorial at the corner of Hyde Park and South Carriage roads in honour of a Muslim family who was run down, June 8, 2021. (Photo by Blair Henatyzen, Blackburn Media)

Letter campaign encourages Canadians to write in memory of Afzaal family

Whether you felt shock, sadness, anger or a mix of all in the wake of last year's anti-Islamic attack in London, a new letter writing campaign asks that you put those emotions into words.

Toronto-based artist Asim Hussain, known professionally as @studentAsim, has launched the online National Letter of Remembrance campaign as a way for Canadians to simultaneously honour the Afzaal family and fight Islamophobia.

The Afzaal family was run down by a pickup truck that mounted the curb at Hyde Park and South Carriage roads while they were out for a walk on June 6 of last year. The driver of the truck sped off without stopping. Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal, and Salman Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother Talat were all killed. The couple's 9-year-old son, Fayez Salman, was the only survivor. A 21-year-old London man has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in connection with the attack.

"The act of letter writing is cathartic. It is a way to reflect and heal," said @studentAsim, who hopes to get as many letters as possible by the first anniversary of the attack. "I think there are so many weighing voices in this country that won't say anything about this even though they are feeling it in their hearts. But the presence of seeing letters of remembrance and seeing Canadians write and express their feelings and thoughts as something tangible is critical."

The campaign mirrors one @studentAsim created after the 2017 Quebec City mass shooting which drew letters from across Canada and even the United States. The goal is to find a new way to harness the emotion that was expressed during a vigil attended by more than 10,000 people in the days that followed the attack to end Islamophobia.

"I was really impressed by the love and the support that the public showed and it told me that there are many, many people who want to come together and strengthen our society for the better," said @studentAsim. "If we could take that solidarity and make it digital and document it, it will always be perpetually a change making opportunity because you can always reference these letters and what people have said and expressed well into the future."

Those interested in writing a letter can do so for the entire family or direct them to one specific family member.

Mayor Ed Holder has written a letter directly to Fayez. In it he tells the young boy, no Londoner will ever forget that "horrible evening."

"Just know Fayez, that London wraps its collective arms around you. You and your family will never be forgotten," wrote Holder.

All letters submitted are posted publicly on the campaign website and can be read at any time. They can be any length and can include poems.

"This whole project is a way to strengthen the bond of solidarity between Canadians. I think this is a unique opportunity for people to channel what they felt after the attack and to let other Canadians see that emotion. Through documenting that we will create more connections and affect more change," said @studentAsim.

Anyone interested in submitting a letter or reading those already posted can do so by clicking here.

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