Prayer Vigil honors New Zealand shooting victims

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Students, faculty and community members gather for candlelight vigil in the Commonwealth Auditorium. LEONOR GRAVE / THE FLAT HAT

Students from the College of William and Mary Muslim Student Association organized Monday, March 18, alongside the Center for Student Diversity, to hold a prayer vigil for the families of the mass shooting at Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Students, college officials and community members came together to fill the entire Commonwealth Auditorium 

Local leaders, students from the MSA and Bruce Jacobson — College President Katherine Rowes husband — spoke in front of the crowd about the history of white supremacy and violence against Muslims to urge action and advocacy against hate, as well as to express their fear, grief and love for their community following this massacre. 

MSA presidents Zauhirah Tipu ’19 and Fatima Chaudhry ’19 opened the vigil by recounting the Muslim community’s experience with oppression and violence, and by describing the horror stemming from these actions of hatred. However, they also emphasized how the community has come together in the wake of this tragedy and brought its strength out into the public eye. After expounding on these tragedies, they also called on the crowd to not let this be the extent of their support for the Muslim community. 

“Do not let the next action you take be attending another candlelight vigil,” Tipu said.

“Do not let the next action you take be attending another candlelight vigil,” Tipu said. 

Tipu and Chaudhry vocalized the grief they felt for those who were lost Friday in Christchurch and emphasized their support for Muslim communities around the world who were hurting. Chaudhry emphasized that this was not about the perpetrator, and though he believed he was hurting their communities, he failed to do so. 

“While he believes he took 50 lives away, he also created 50 martyrs who have been sent to the highest realms of heaven,” Chaudhry said. 

Because Rowe was out of town and could not speak at the vigil herself, Jacobson spoke for them both about how profoundly saddened and outraged he was after the massacre. He spoke about how essential it was to live together in solidarity as a community despite differences. 

Wesley Campus Minister Max Blalock then gave an impassioned appeal to the crowd about standing up together for those who are less privileged. Identifying himself as an example of someone in a position to advocate for others because of his social privilege as a straight, white Christian, he urged others to do the same. 

“It is important, especially for those like me who are white and Christian, to put our asses on the line for those who are targeted,” Blalock said.

“It is important, especially for those like me who are white and Christian, to put our asses on the line for those who are targeted,” Blalock said. 

Blalock said that this violence and hate was being expressed far too often, and that people dying in houses of worship was incomprehensible. Going forward, he said that gathering together after a tragedy is not enough, and that this massacre should act as a wakeup call. 

“I don’t know if there’s any better call for us not just to love and gather but be willing to wage peace as fervently as some people want to wage violence and terror and war,” Blalock said. 

“I don’t know if there’s any better call for us not just to love and gather but be willing to wage peace as fervently as some people want to wage violence and terror and war,” Blalock said. 

 Students from the MSA then took turns on the stage, speaking about their personal experiences with their mosques at home, sorrow for those who were lost, fear for their communities and hope for the future. 

To close the vigil, the crowd was directed to light candles and listen to a traditional Muslim prayer.