On what was otherwise a regular December afternoon this past year, University of Lethbridge alumnus Manwar Khan (BSc '07) witnessed a brutal event that changed his life forever.
But rather than try and put that day behind him and move on, he's using his experience as the impetus for change.
Khan, a 37-year-old father of two-year-old twins, was on the Edmonton LRT when one passenger attacked another just a few metres away and began a ruthless beating. Shocked by the savagery of the assault and the daunting task of stopping it, Khan appealed to other passengers for assistance, but no one came forward.
Although Khan desperately tried to stop the attack, one man died and the other now sits in a jail cell, awaiting trial on second-degree murder charges. Khan, with the images of that day still fresh in his mind, has launched a provincial-wide anti-bullying initiative in an effort to raise awareness of bullying and empower bystanders.
"Since that day, I have been haunted by that incident," he says from his Edmonton office where he works as an IT professional for Alberta Human Services. "Even when I go to bed, I think about this. When I'm in the LRT I think about it. What if I could go back to that day, what could I try differently? I can either sit here and hope that this will pass, or I can stand up and help other people by raising awareness among them to speak up against bullying. I want bullying to be stopped – period."
Khan's first anti-bullying rally was held in Edmonton on Apr. 27, with a second event staged in Calgary on May 11. He will be at the University of Lethbridge for a Sept. 14 rally at 1:30 p.m. outside the 1st Choice Savings Centre for Sport & Wellness.
"I want to encourage people to stand up against bullying, not just stand by," says Khan. "I thought of my own kids that day, what if something like this was happening to them, who is going to help them? People actually have the power together, they just don't know."
Khan came to study at the U of L in 2001 as an international student from Bangladesh. He met his wife, Nashid Sultana (BSc '06), on campus and looks back on his U of L experience as a springboard to the life he leads today. It also helped shape his character, something that was tested that December afternoon.
"My education at the U of L sharpened my self-awareness and moral values," he says. "These values have guided me throughout my career and now stimulate me to organize this campaign and to stand up against bullying."
His ties to the University still run deep, and Khan was pleased to welcome Dr. Bruce MacKay (liberal education) to the Edmonton rally as a guest speaker.
"He was not only a teacher to me, but he also provided some valuable advice whenever I was stressed out with academic life," says Khan.
He also credited Lesley Rode (academic advising) and Dr. Shahadat Hossain as key influences on his
U of L experience.
"Lesley was the one who guided me throughout my academic life at the U of L and was my academic mentor," says Khan. "Dr. Hossain was the one who encouraged me to enroll in the co-op program to get an understanding of the professional environment. That changed my life and led to my job in government."
Khan now has the opportunity to give back to the community he still considers as his Canadian home. It is one of awareness, understanding, empathy and strength, all attributes influenced by his time at the U of L.
"Bullying is not acceptable and there is no place for bullying in our society," he says. "Violence should never be tolerated. I want to encourage people to stand up against bullying, not only for yourself but for others."