Vigil Mourns Victims of Christchurch Attack

Tall, lit, candles standing behind shorter, lit, candles at the vigil outside of Watzek Library. Photo by Ary Hashim.

Over 100 students, faculty and members of the community gathered in front of Watzek Library on March 18 to mourn the loss of 50 Muslims shot and killed during prayer in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15. Dean of Spiritual Life Mark Duntley, Chamberlin Social Justice and Faith in Action Coordinator Hilary Martin Himan and members of the LC Muslim community, along with Dunltey and Martin, led a vigil to remember the victims and show solidarity with the Muslim community on campus. Flowers were laid on the steps in front of J. R. Howard and attendees were given candles to hold as a tribute.

Himan introduced the event.

“We have viewed with horror and sadness the news following the events of the shootings at two mosques in New Zealand where 50 innocent lives were taken,” Himan said. “We mourn those lost in tragedy and stand together in solidarity. We offer our sympathies and share our disgust that places of worship were again targeted in the name of terror and hate.”

Abdulilah Alajny, a first-year student in the American English Studies (AES) Program, recited verses from the Qur’an, which were then translated by Aisha Kheir ’20.

In her speech, Himan quoted a statement from Jack Rosen, President of American Jewish Congress.

“This is the end result of all hatred,” she said. “We condemn the hateful ideology that motivated this attack in the strongest possible terms. To our Muslim brothers and sisters, our Muslim siblings, we stand with you now. The hatred that flows through these attacks stems from the same profound hatred for social inclusion or coexistence … The strongest stance that we can take is solidarity.”

At Duntley’s prompting, the vigil moved to the space above the reflecting pool, attendees walking two-by-two carrying the candles and flowers. Once at the secondary location, Himan spoke on the need for all people to stand against hate, and to come together as one world to condemn these acts.

Contemplative and Spiritual Life Coordinator Jeanne Lilly went on to read a prayer from Sufi leader Hazrat Iniyat Khan.

Duntley led the task of lighting the 50 candles to commemorate each of the lives lost, and a message board was available for attendees to write their thoughts or wishes of hope and love to the Muslim community.  

Ola Alshamrani, a second semester AES student, expressed that the vigil helped with coping with the tragedy.

“On Friday we were very terrified and very depressed, but with the love and support we are receiving, it is getting better … I am completely surprised (by the attendance),” Alshamrani said. “I thought maybe only five (people) would come, I am very happy. I didn’t expect this. I think none of us expected this, it’s really nice.”

The vigil was planned by many students from the Muslim community, who all stressed that it was a group effort to plan and implement.

Bader Alshbanat, a first year AES student spoke about the group effort in planning the event. Himan emailed members of the Muslim community on campus on March 15 about the potential vigil. From there, a group of students, including Alshbanat, Alajny, Alshamrani and many others collaborated on planning it.

“We met on Saturday and found out what we were going to do, we decided on the flowers, we divided the tasks … on Monday we met with Hilary (Martin Himan) to finalize everything, and thank God everything went great,” Alshbanat said. “We really appreciate the solidarity from the LC students that came, this appreciation meant a lot to us.”

Mai Bailey ’22 attended the event.

“I was inspired by the need for everybody to come together, especially people from all across the student body,” Bailey said. “It’s important for us to come together and unify in any way we can.”

The flowers are scheduled to be planted this week and the message board is available in J.R. Howard for students interested in contributing.

Edited March 23, 2019 at 4:37 PM.

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