Students mourn the lives lost in the New Zealand terror attacks

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Students mourn the lives lost in the New Zealand terror attacks

Jessica Kaplan, Print Managing Co-Editor

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The world reacted in horror on March 16 as 50 were killed and dozens were injured in a hate-driven terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. In Lewisburg, members of the University gathered on March 21 in solidarity for a candlelight vigil sponsored by the Muslim Student Association on the science quad to honor those who perished in the massacre.

 

Reverend Kurt Nelson, the director of Religious and Spiritual Life, opened the vigil, emphasizing that acts of such extreme hatred are “not normal.” He also added that it is members of the University’s duty “to honor the ways in which attacks on peaceful worshippers are particularly shattering and disruptive, even if they happen a long way away. To honor the victims. And to remind ourselves each that in the wake of such moments, we will gather more, not less. We will forge more friendships and collaborations, not fewer.”

 

President of the Muslim Student Association Omar El-Etr ’19 also stressed that the shooting is not an isolated incident, and in fact mirrors the appalling rise in mass shootings, weaponization of social media, and the perceived threat of minority groups. Indeed, the vigil marks the second time the community has gathered in solidarity in the wake of tragedy this academic year as the community also came together after The Pittsburgh Tree of Life shooting in late October. El-Etr spoke on how it is necessary for students to be proactive in combating intolerance to decrease the likelihood of future terrorist attacks. He noted that all members of the community have the individual potential to defeat such hate through donating to the victim’s families, educating themselves about Islamic traditions and culture, and above all, advocating for all minorities.

 

University President John Bravman, whose remarks were delivered by the Dean of Arts and Sciences Amy Badal, also stressed how education is the most effective tool in combating hatred, intolerance, ignorance, and apathy. Candles were then passed around and lit as members of the Muslim Student Association read out the names of victims.

 

Kabir Uddin ’19 spoke to the crowd regarding the importance of bridging ideological divides in a time of great hate. “This is what I see the purpose of the vigil being; providing that space of mourning, lending your hearts out to those affected, and allowing yourself to look around and see the support system that still exists in the world despite all of these atrocities. It is a time to show an ability to cross the divide, and come together on a human level, to show support for a group you may or may not agree with,” Uddin said.

 

The vigil demonstrated this goal by including chaplains of many religions. Rabbi Chana Leslie Glaser of the Jewish community shared a poem written specifically for the occasion, by her colleague Stephen Oppenheimer, urging for “the memories of those murdered in the midst of prayer to spur us to act.” Assistant Catholic Campus Minister Kelsi Chuprinski also led the community in Catholic prayer. Ikmal Azman ’19 concluded the service in Muslim prayer, advocated for students to join in their own religion if they wished.

 

As the night was windy, Nelson noted that some candles would blow out. Yet, the glow of the candles only grew, as members of the crowd continued to pass the light on throughout the vigil. “This is where we come in: students have an incredible role in fighting the ills of society. We all have a voice, and I would humbly say for us to begin to use it in our personal circles and beyond,” Uddin said.

 

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