It saddens the heart to have to write about the act of terrorism that occurred on Friday, March 15 in Christchurch, New Zealand by a suspect who is a 28-year-old Australian male with white supremacy views.
The attacker targeted two mosques in Christchurch during the Friday prayer session; Al Noor Mosque, Riccarton and Linwood Islamic Centre where the attacker killed 50 and injured 50 plus with two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm while livestreaming 17 minutes of the attack on Facebook.
This incident had a lot of responses from New Zealand’s law enforcements and judicial system, emergency aids, the government in response to gun laws, alt-right groups, world-leaders, Islamic groups, mega-corporations, pro-gun groups, press, social-media and the community.
In response to this tragedy, the Kessel Peace Institute and African American Affairs coordinated a vigil that was held on Tuesday, March 19 in the Centennial Student Union, at Minnesota State University, Mankato. The vigil was held to mourn the death of the victims and show solidarity and support with the people most affected by the attack.
The vigil had a sad and quiet atmosphere, where most attendees were holding pink flowers. It also accommodated four speakers, whom of which were two faculty members of Minnesota State University; the head of African-American Student Affairs Kenneth Reid was the vigil opener. He gave a speech about minority empowerment by recounting past tragic attacks towards African-American and how they overcame them through solidarity. He also re-assured the attendees of his continued support.
Then Dr. Habib, another faculty member, who mentioned the importance of unity within humanity irrespective of race, religion or views. He also appreciated attendees for coming because this shows solidarity and made emphasizes that this is the time for people to speak up and stand for humanity. He also recounted the event to encourage the attendees to embrace courage instead of fear.
The vigil also featured two student speakers. One was Awais Qarni who shared his immediate reaction to the tragic news. He shared that he felt so many emotions including greif but he definitely was not surprise due to the fact that he has experienced a loved-one go through the same tragic scenario in Pakistan, and the high frequency of hate-crime toward Muslim, Jews and Christians in various parts of the world. He also mentioned that the attack cannot prevail because through unity, we will all be stronger.
Then Abdul Haseeb Mohammed started his speech with, “As-salamu alaykum,” which means peace be upon you. He also recounted the event in New Zealand saying that “peace be upon you” was said by the first victim with intention to greet the shooter without knowing his intentions.
He also shared his reaction in response to watching the video of the event, that he saw how people in event of this traumatizing experience still remembered to put other people first by making effort to protect others from the shooter. He shared that these two occurrences highlighted the beauty of religion and its teaching and that it is all about love, peace and selflessness.
After the speakers, a one-minute silence was held to honor the lives lost and immediately accompanied with a solemn piano song. Then there was an announcement on a class of how to become an ally to minorities and immigrants was going to be held later that night.
Header photo by Kjerstin Hall | MSU Reporter.