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Vigil held in Toronto church for LGBTQ victims of alleged serial killer

Last Updated Feb 4, 2018 at 11:50 pm EST

At an emotional candlelight vigil in Toronto’s east-end Sunday, the city’s LGBTQ community gathered to remember the alleged victims of a serial killer as members of the community — not just victims.

There was Majeed Kayhan, the 58-year-old man who loved Bollywood movies and dancing, or 49-year-old Andrew Kinsman, a known community figure who volunteered at an AIDS support group and was always willing to offer a helping hand to anyone.

At the Metropolitan Community Church, a venue known for being one of the first institutions to marry same sex couples, pastors took a moment to remind mourners of the kinds of people the men were as they lit a candle for each.

Reverend Sandra Morris also lit a sixth candle to remind those in attendance that police believe there are still a number of victims to be found.

“We also remember that there others still missing and there maybe more victims before this nightmare ends,” said Morris.

The other victims include Selim Esen, 44, who had immigrated from Turkey in search of a more accepting country; Dean Lisowick, who was either 43 or 44 when he died, and was described as a gentle soul who’d be the first to come to rescue in times of need; and Sorush Mahmudi, 50, whose circumstances were less known, but who left behind a wife and two children.

The ceremony came after police charged Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old landscaper, with first-degree murder in the deaths of five men in and around Toronto’s LGBTQ neighbourhood in what they called an unprecedented event for the city.

Senior Pastor Jeff Rock used the event, which was packed full of mourners, to emphasize that solidarity and support for marginalized communities were important in the wake of the tragedy.

“This week, the news has led many of us on an emotional roller-coaster,” said Rock, who implored people not to blame the victims, and to push aside any stigma about LGBTQ people.

Leighton Ling, a man who often attends services at the Metropolitan Community Church, said he came to the event because he felt it was important to show support for the community

“I could have been one of those persons. It affected so many people in the community because of that,” said Ling, who said a friend of his had known one of the dead men.

“I’m glad that we have a space that we can come to and feel at ease, even if you don’t have the answers to the questions. It helps to make you feel better.”

Morris said that the church would continue to offer support to anyone who needed it, as the police investigation continues and the scope of the tragedy becomes clearer.