The Uyghur Canadian Islamic and Cultural Center held a grand opening of their mosque in Troy, Ontario on Saturday, September 25th, 2021 and community members were joined by Muslim religious and community leaders and politicians for the celebrations.
Leaders of two major Uyghur exile groups — Dolkun Isa, president of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, and Rushan Abbas, executive director of the U.S.-based Campaign for Uyghurs were also in attendance.
The mosque is a renovated 150-year-old Roman Catholic Church that will serve a community of 2,000 members of the Turkic ethnic group. Troy, Ontario is located close to the city of Hamilton.
The East Turkestan Association of Canada which runs the mosque invited the priest and former congregation to attend the opening ceremony.
Robin Wilkie, the last pastor of the church, said the congregation was getting older, and could not afford to maintain the building.
“And with COVID, they decided that it was time to sell. So that’s when the Uyghur community purchased the building from us, and so we hand the baton on to them to carry on their faith,” he told Radio Free Asia (RFA) Uyghur Service.
The Uyghur Mosque was established in March 2009 and carried out its activities in rented premises until July 1, 2015 when the Uyghur community in GTA purchased a property located in Mississauga.
The mosque purchased this new 21,400 sq. ft. church property in Troy in May 2021, for a price of $610,000.
“For Canadian Uyghurs, this shows what kinds of results unity and solidarity can and cannot achieve,” Tuyghun Abduweli, president of the East Turkestan Association of Canada, told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“The unity here in Canada [that] ultimately led us to purchase such a large church, which we then turned into a mosque to use for our own cultural, historical, and religious matters, is very exciting and inspiring to Uyghur Canadians.”