Students gathered in front of the Tower on Thursday night to hold a vigil for the March shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The vigil was a joint event held by Student Government, the Muslim Students’ Association and the Nueces Mosque, and included speeches from the association’s members and an Imam from a local mosque.
While the Christchurch shooting was the main focus of the vigil, it also remembered other recent violent acts directed toward Muslim communities, such as an attack on a majority Muslim village in Mali on March 23.
“(Student government and Muslim Students’ Association) just wanted to raise awareness about the suffering the Muslim community is going through,” said Mehraz Rahman, student body vice president. “The more you learn about Islam, about what you can do when things like (the Christchurch shooting) happen ... all of that is very productive to create more dialogue.”
Imam Sheikh Umer of the Nueces Mosque delivered a speech expressing gratitude for the support from the non-Muslim community following the Christchurch shooting and spoke about what students can do in the aftermath of violent events.
“We, the older generation, have burdened you with the responsibility of restoring order and peace in the world,” Umer said. “Take that responsibility upon yourself and use that education your gained from here, the degrees you have from here. The young ones are the ones that we put our hope into.”
Biology junior Ayah Albustami said when she heard about the Christchurch shooting, she did not pay much attention to it at first, but as she learned more, she began to feel like a “bystander.”
“I think what freaked me out the most in the aftermath was when I first saw it, I thought it was just another one of those shootings that happen monthly at this point,” Albustami said. “You feel like you don’t have a right to be sad because you’re not the one whose family is gone.”
However, she said feeling sad keeps people from forgetting what happened, which is important. Over time, she said the sadness fades, but so does the awareness.
“You get used to shootings and you get used to religious and racial and cultural persecution, and you really shouldn’t be getting used to it,” Albustami said. “(The vigil) sort of made me sad all over again, and I guess in a way that’s a good thing.”