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Kelowna  

Refugee family feels safe

It has been 20 months since the Al-Shahoud family first set foot in Canada, landing at Kelowna Airport three years after escaping their war-torn home in Syria.

Just months after Mohammed, Sara, and their five children arrived in Kelowna, Castanet met with them and, with the assistance of a translator, learned about their dangerous journey from Syria to Canada.

Several days after escaping their homeland, Mohammed's son-in-law went back to their house to get some belongings that had been left behind. The home was burned to the ground, their car destroyed, and their four cows slaughtered.

Today, Mohammed no longer needs a translator. He's not completely satisfied with his grasp of English, but has no problem speaking clearly about his oldest children taking classes at Okanagan College while working part time, and his younger ones at high school and elementary school in Rutland.

The family attends Kelowna Islamic Centre weekly to pray, but Mohammed says he also regularly attends Winfield United Church. The Central Okanagan Refugee Comittee, which sponsored the family's refugee application, is part of the United Church network.

“There is no difference in the religions,” said Mohammed. “Maybe you call me Muslim, and I call you Christian, and I call that guy Jewish, but the main idea is the same in all religions.”

Despite the recent massacre at a Quebec City mosque and Donald Trump's controversial 90-day ban on immigration and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, Mohammed says he feels safe in Kelowna.

“The community in this area is very safe. I never met anybody that hates others,” he said. “There's nothing to worry about here.”

He says Trump's immigration ban works to increase tensions between people, but he doesn't believe Trump speaks for the majority.

Mohammed recently obtained his security guard licence and works at that as well as delivering food for Zabb Thai Restaurant.

The family of seven live in a three-bedroom upstairs suite, while Mohammed's daughter, son-in-law and their four children live downstairs. His oldest son also lives nearby with his wife and two daughters.

Mohammed hopes to one day move the rest of his family to Kelowna, especially his daughter, who is still stuck with her husband in Syria.

He'll be attending the vigil for the the victim's of Sunday's Quebec City massacre tonight at the Islamic Centre.

He says it's important for the community to come together in times of tragedy, and to show each other respect.

“There is bad people in all the religions around the world,” he said. “In the end, all of us are human. If you want to live together in a strong community and a good community, we should love each other.”



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