New gymnasium unveiled to honour Afzaal family

Nearly one year after four members of the Afzaal family were killed while on an evening walk in London, a new gymnasium has been unveiled in their honour.

In a private ceremony held Saturday, the gymnasium — named the ‘Our London Family Gymnasium’ — officially opened its doors, and it’s a community space that is welcomed to everyone.

The gym is located less than a kilometer from the location where the Afzaal was killed, near the intersection of Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road. The facility is in the same building as a mosque and a youth centre, where the Afzaal family spent much of their time.

The gym has been in the planning stages for the past three years, but its namesake is in commemoration of the Afzaal family.

“Even though a year has passed it feels like no time has passed at all,” said Maryam Al-Sabawi, co-founder of the Youth Coalition Combating Islamophobia organization.

Members of the Afzaal family also spoke during the event.

“They were very strong supporters and believers in strong institutions for our youth and community,” said Saboor Khan, of the Muslim Association and who was also close to the family. “Not just the Muslim community, but a positive environment where Muslims and non-Muslims can interact with one another.”

For friends of 14-year-old Yumnah, Saturday marked a bittersweet day.

“She would love it,” said Huda Sallan, a friend of Yumnah. “I think the whole family would love it. It’s a really positive outlook on something so tragic.”

The gym was made possible with help from the Muslim Association of Canada. They hope the gym will be a safe place for people to come to, and will serve as a reminder that the community will not accept hate.

“It means a lot that they did this for Yumnah and her family,” said Al-Sabawi.

For Abdull Atif Bakbak, executive director of the Muslim Association of Canada, Saturday’s event was also an opportunity to make voices heard and to heal from a devastating loss.

“This is an opportunity to bring the community together…to console the Afzaal family for what happened to them,” he said.

Over the coming days there are more events planned to honour the family. A schedule listing the events can be found on the City of London’s website.

A large turnout is expected for Sunday’s march which is slated to begin at 1 p.m. at Oakridge Secondary School.

The city will also unveil a memorial and garden in honour of the family on Monday, to mark the one year anniversary of the attack.

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